Returning to work after SPL


When an employee’s combined period of leave (any combination of SPL/maternity/paternity and adoption) totals 26 weeks or less, an employee has the right to return to the same job in which they were employed before they went on leave (if it is still available). This right is unaffected if unpaid parental leave of up to four weeks is also taken. Where the combined period of leave exceeds 26 weeks, or SPL was taken consecutively with more than four weeks of unpaid parental leave, the employee will normally return to the same job in which they were employed before they went on leave (if it is still available). However, if there is reason other than redundancy which means that it is not reasonably practicable for the University to permit them to return to the same job, they are entitled to return to a different job which is both suitable for them and appropriate in the circumstances, on terms and conditions that are no less favourable than they would have been had the employee not been absent (unless a redundancy situation has arisen or a fixed-term contract has come to an end).

In any instance where the returning employee is at risk of redundancy or approaching the end of a fixed-term contract within 18 months of the child being born or placed, the department must consult with an HR Business Partner before initiating any redundancy or end of fixed-term contract processes. Under the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023, any employee who is on or has returned from a period of SPL which lasted at least six continuous weeks is entitled to enhanced protection from redundancy for 18 months after the birth or placement of the child during any period in which they are considered to be at risk of redundancy (typically the final 3 months of the contract when they are considered a priority candidate). This means that they should be given priority consideration for redeployment opportunities. Whilst every effort should be made to support redeployment, there is no guarantee that suitable redeployment will be found: suitable alternative employment (ie where the postholder meets at least the minimum essential selection criteria for the role) may not arise during the relevant period of time.

Employees have the right to request flexible working (ie a change to their hours, times or place of work) and the employing department must deal with the request in accordance with the University's flexible working request procedure. If an employee wishes to work a flexible working pattern on a temporary basis to ease their return to work, they should discuss this with their department as soon as possible. It may be possible to use accrued annual leave for this purpose.

Employees returning from family leave may also have a separate entitlement to Parental Leave which is a period of unpaid leave.

If a woman who has recently given birth or is breast-feeding, is unable to continue in her post on designated health and safety grounds (eg due to work involving handling harmful chemicals), the University's Safety Office, University's Occupational Health Service and your HR Business Partner should be contacted for advice and the next steps.