Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright: redundancy during maternity leave
Employment solicitor, Nathalie Stewart, takes a closer look at the recent decision in Sefton Borough Council v Wainwright and what it means for employers.
Mrs Wainwright started maternity leave in July 2012 at the same time she was told her role was at risk of redundancy. Her employer, the Council, decided that a reorganisation was going to take place. Two positions (including Mrs Wainwright’s) would be removed and replaced by a single position.
Mrs Wainwright (still on maternity leave) and the person who had occupied the other redundant position were interviewed for the new role. Mrs Wainwright’s colleague was found to be the better candidate and was offered the job. No other alternative vacancies were offered and she was made redundant. She issued a claim of automatic unfair dismissal.
Mrs Wainwright alleged that the newly created position was a suitable alternative vacancy, which the Council were obliged to offer her under Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999. The Employment Tribunal agreed and her claim was successful. The Council unsuccessfully appealed the decision.
What this means for you
This case serves as a reminder that the duty under Regulation 10 is an absolute right. It means that a woman on maternity leave has the right to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy. Even if she is not the best candidate for the job.
In this situation, Mrs Wainwright should not have been required to engage in any form of selection process. She simply should have been offered the position.
This case also confirms that a breach of Regulation 10 will amount to an automatic unfair dismissal. So employers must take care to avoid such situations.
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