Case study: Maternity leave and returning to work
Sheila took her maternity leave but forgot to let her employer know her
intention to return to work. She thought her employer knew she was returning
since she called into work about 2 months before and was sure she told them she
would be coming back. When she did return however, her employer told her that
she had been replaced and refused to take her back. The employer said the
proper written notice of the intention to return had not been given in writing.
Sheila was very upset but what are her rights?
She is required by law to give at least 4 weeks' written notice of her intention to return to work. She failed to do this and so is in real danger of losing her right to return.
The law allows the adjudicator of the Workplace Relations Commission to extend the time for giving notice if there are reasonable grounds for the failure to give notice in the proper manner. What constitutes reasonable grounds depends on the facts of each case. Notice may not have been given for example, because the baby had been very ill. It appears Sheila either forgot to give the notice or decided it was unnecessary after she had spoken to her employer.
It would be a matter for the adjudicator of the Workplace Relations Commission to decide if, in all the circumstances, either of these reasons could be considered reasonable grounds for her failure to give the required written notice.
If it was decided that there were no reasonable grounds for the failure to give notice, then this would be taken into account in any decision on the case. This could mean that Sheila would lose her right to return to work and might only get reduced compensation. The best policy for an employee is always to follow the notice requirements strictly.