Being Made Redundant During a Career Break
Being made redundant can be frightening and confusing at the best of times, but especially so when you are on leave, cut off from all of the social support networks that a workplace environment provides. It is a situation which gives rise to a number of special questions and considerations.
There are many forms of leave. Maternity leave, of course, is very common. Sick leave is not uncommon. In addition, many employers in recent years have begun to offer their staff the option of taking career breaks for several years at a time to do such things as take care of elderly or sick relatives or deal with other domestic responsibilities.
Length of Service Calculations on LeaveThe redundancy process is highly regulated by law. Workers affected by it are entitled to certain payments and treatment privileges depending on their length of service with the employer. Under normal circumstances, the calculation of length of service is not usually a complicated one. When the worker has spent a significant amount of time on leave, however, the obvious question arises : should the time spent on leave be counted as part of the length of service?
The answer depends on the nature of the leave being taken. If it is maternity leave, the period of absence will count as “continuous service” with the employer. The same is true of sick leave. Other forms of career break will not normally count as continuous service with an employer and may break the period of continuous service you have accumulated before the leave started. This means that, when you return, you will be, in effect, starting from scratch again, although, in granting you leave, your employer may choose to offer you more generous terms than are required by law.
Being Dismissed Because You Are on LeaveWhenever you receive a redundancy notice while you are on leave, it is perfectly natural for you to wonder whether the fact that you are on leave has anything to do with you being made redundant.
Pregnancy is one of the most typical reasons for being on leave from your employer. During pregnancy leave, the employer is required to make maternity payments to the prospective mother even though she is not doing any work, and, in practice, usually has to hire another temporary employee to take care of the absent member of staff’s duties. Naturally, this is a significant cost burden to a business and one from which many employers would dearly like to escape. The most obvious way for them to do this is to dismiss the pregnant woman from their employ. This is illegal, however.
In all cases, the employer must justify the decision to make certain workers redundant on the basis of objective criteria. The employer must explain to you what those criteria are. If your employer, therefore, claims that you are being made redundant based on the Last-in, First-out principle, but you know that other employees who joined the company after you are not being made redundant; or if your employer claims that the company no longer needs the work you do to be done, but recruits someone else to fill the post after you have left it; these are good indicators that something is amiss; that your redundancy is not a genuine one; and that there may be grounds for bringing an unfair discrimination case against your employer.