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Introduction to this document

Letter to employee not returning from maternity leave

Where an employee has informed you that she’s not intending to return to work after maternity leave, our letter helps you frame a response to her. She still needs to formally resign so the important thing is to clarify the notice of termination requirements.

When parenting takes priority

If your employee decides that she isn’t coming back after her maternity leave, she’s still obliged to give you proper notice of resignation under the terms of her contract of employment or, if there is no notice provision in the contract, statutory minimum notice, which is always one week for an employee. If that notice period would expire after her maternity leave has ended, you may require her to return to work to serve out the remainder of the notice period. If she fails to do so, she has no right to be paid for any part of her notice period she’s not willing to work. In practice, there’s probably no point in having your employee back to work just for a couple of weeks but if you take the decision that she doesn’t need to bother returning, you risk having to pay her in lieu of notice for the period from the end of her maternity leave until the date her notice is served. So, ideally, you need her to confirm that she’s not willing to work that part of her notice.

Two scenarios

Our Letter to Employee Not Returning from Maternity Leave advises the employee of her due return date and reminds her of her contractual notice period. It then covers the following two scenarios:

  1. Where the employee has made it clear well in advance of her return date that she’s not intending to come back and so she has ample time to give notice to resign that will expire in advance of, or usually to coincide with, the end of her maternity leave.
  2. Where she decides close to her return date that she’s not going to come back, meaning that notice of termination would expire after her maternity leave has ended - the legal position on this is discussed above.

No notice required

An employee who decides to return to work at the end of her maternity leave is not required in law to give you any notice of this - she can simply report for work on her due date of return. So you must assume that the employee is returning to work at the end of her maternity leave unless she gives you formal notice of resignation.