Workplaces are fast-moving and a lot can change while you’re on parental leave.
This happened for Jenny. She’d been on leave for six months when she heard her workplace was restructuring and that it seemed her role was going to be made redundant.She was very nervous about what it meant for her financially and she was upset that she’d heard the rumour from a colleague first, and not her boss.
In some cases these types of changes (when communicated well) can be great news. Some people are very open to taking a redundancy package while on leave as it can mean they can afford some extra time with their baby. For others, like Jenny, this is terrible news and takes away important stability. In all cases, it is a great idea to know your rights and where to go for help.
Understanding your rights
The Fair Work Ombudsman is the government body which exists to help all of us understand our rights and responsibilities at work. According to their website:
- Employers have to talk to an employee on unpaid parental leave if they decide to make a significant change in the workplace that will affect the employee’s job. This has to occur as the decision is made, not when the employee comes back to work from parental leave.
- Where an employee’s job is made redundant while on parental leave, the employer has to give them the correct notice and pay out any entitlements, including redundancy pay.
Right to return to the same job
The Fair Work Ombudsman is quite clear on returning to work requirements and they detail that an employee who’s been on unpaid parental leave is entitled to come back to the job they had before going on leave, even if another person is working in their role as a replacement.
If the employee was transferred to a safe job before they took unpaid parental leave or they reduced their hours due to the pregnancy, then they’re entitled to return to the job they had before the transfer or reduction.
If the job doesn’t exist anymore or it has changed, then they have to be offered a suitable available job that the employee is qualified and suited to work in and is nearest to their old job in pay and status.
What to do if you think you’ve been discriminated against
If you think you’ve lost your job, it’s important to get good advice to ensure you are treated fairly. Contact the Fair Work Commission first if you think it was because of discrimination or a reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable. You have 21 days from the day employment ends to lodge an application with the Commission.
It’s important that you don’t take these types of changes to heart, and if you need help managing this through, many companies have Employee Assistance Programs that will be available to you. In most cases workplace changes like this are not a reflection on you or your performance. Don’t let it dint your confidence. If you ask around in your network, you’ll find that change is all around us and it actually happens to quite a lot of awesome people.
Shannon Lyndon-Lugg is is a mama to two lovely children and the founder of Lyndon Lugg Consulting, With expertise in human resources, leadership development, diversity and performance, Shannon works with companies to improve leadership, inclusion and diversity, culture and performance.