Burning career issues: Maternity leave dilemma

Q I’m an HR co-ordinator. My boss’s remit covers dealing with staff on maternity leave. One of my friends – from another department within the same company – is currently on maternity leave. I know that she has decided not to come back, but hasn’t yet informed the company. I don’t want to betray her confidence, but nor do I want to cause my boss unnecessary work – particularly as keeping my friend’s decision secret could land me in hot water when the news becomes public knowledge. What do you suggest I do?

A Changes to legislation concerning maternity leave stipulate that there is no longer any provision for employers to contact their employee before the end of maternity leave to ask about intentions to return. This means that a woman who intends to return to work at the end of her full maternity leave entitlement is not required to give any further notification to her employer.

However, if she decides not to return, she should inform her employer – at the very least out of courtesy. Beyond this, there are notice periods which need to be worked out. It is possible your friend has kept quiet because of concerns over receiving her statutory maternity pay. However, payment does not depend on her intention, or otherwise, to return to work. If she qualified for statutory pay in the first place, she is entitled to get it and keep it, even if she does not return to work.

Talk to your friend about her intentions and encourage her to look at the ethical aspect of withholding information. Your employer cannot hold you to account for a colleague’s actions. Any discussion about maternity leave is a matter of employee confidentiality.

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