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Practice dilemma: Maternity leave

What are the redundancy procedures if you have a member of staff on maternity leave? Our legal expert advises

It is important to include this employee in the redundancy process notwithstanding her absence from work. She should be given all the same written and oral communications as the other members of staff.

You will also need to ensure that the process of selecting which individual within the receptionist pool is provisionally selected for redundancy is not discriminatory. By way of example, if one of your selection criterion deals with attendance levels then any pregnancy/maternity related absence should be excluded from the figures to avoid your employee on maternity leave being at a disadvantage to her colleagues.

If the receptionist on maternity leave is nevertheless the one who is provisionally selected for redundancy then there should be an active consultation process with her in the same way as there would be for any other employee in the same position. Ideally consultation should happen face-to-face although you should try and be flexible by, for example, meeting at the employee's home or outside normal practice hours. If face-to-face meetings are not possible then you should do your best to consult by other means, such as by telephone or, as a final resort, by letter. A failure to consult with an employee on maternity leave is likely to render any redundancy dismissal both unfair and discriminatory.

Part of any redundancy consultation process requires a consideration of any suitable alternative vacancies within the practice. It may be that there are no vacancies but if there are, it is important to note that a woman on maternity leave will get priority over any vacancy that is both suitable and appropriate for her in the circumstances.

Alison Graham is a healthcare employment lawyer at Veale Wasbrough Vizards

Alison Graham is a healthcare employment lawyer at Veale Wasbrough Vizards


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