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Employer and bonus - do you think this is fair?

(48 Posts)
Fairornot Tue 30-Jul-13 19:33:32

Hi. I would really appreciate some honest views on this. I have name changed as might out myself. Apologies for the length.

Before maternity leave and a subsequent career break, I worked for a large blue chip company. A few years back, instead of a bonus, we were awarded shares. These vested this year and so I was hoping to sell them (approx value £3000-4000).

However, I have just discovered that I no longer own the shares as I am considered a 'bad leaver' by the company. When the shares were awarded, we were told that they could be taken away under certain conditions before the vesting date - eg in the case of dismissal for gross misconduct. Obviously, retirement and medical retirement etc were not part of this, though leaving to work for another (rival) company was. Essentially, if you were a good employee you'd be considered a 'good leaver' if you left for personal reasons - which I thought I had!

What upsets me is that I am currently on a three year career break, as is common for many of the women in my industry, and to be allowed to do this in the first place, you specifically have to be seen to be a so called 'good leaver', ie they wouldn't hesitate to re employ you. So to be told I'm a 'bad leaver' in this case is upsetting both personally and professionally.

FWIW, I joined said company as one of a select handful on a graduate management programme, had an exemplary career history, was highly regarded, excellent appraisals etc - and so it feels quite unfair that years later, I'm penalised when at the time, I'd worked bloody hard and was duly awarded with a good bonus.

So - I'd appreciate any views, good or bad! How can the company be happy enough with me to want me to go back once the career break is over, but not happy enough to honour a bonus agreement that was determined years back, pre-children?

AIBU to feel miffed? TIA.

lels99 Tue 30-Jul-13 19:35:28

Have you got the wording from any documents that were given to you when the shares were issued?

phantomnamechanger Tue 30-Jul-13 19:35:38

no advice but YANBU - either you are a good employee and they want you back, or you were not and they don't.

Fairornot Tue 30-Jul-13 19:36:44

And to avoid drip feeding, the career break does involve resigning 'technically', but I am still bound by certain agreements and am able to go back to a job. It feels like I'm a useful employee when it suits them, but not when it costs! Incidentally, there was a huge mix up with maternity pay too and it took months to get that resolved. The industry is pretty male dominated, but I don't think this is specifically a gender issue.

thatstoast Tue 30-Jul-13 19:37:07

Surely there's a mistake and you're not a bad leaver' and you should be compensated accordingly? I wouldn't just accept that you've lost the bonus, you should fight for it or a similar bonus payment assuming the shares have been sold.

Beastofburden Tue 30-Jul-13 19:39:11

Are you sure it isn't just a cock up ? I would write a very polite letter to hr pointing out the contradiction and asking for guidance. You won't need to tell them that discrimination against people on maternity leave is a very Bad Idea.....

Fairornot Tue 30-Jul-13 19:40:53

lels - I have the wording, which refers specifically to bad leavers and dismissal for gross misconduct and then all other matters are at the company's discretion. At the time we were issued with the paperwork, someone queried this and we were reassured (verbally) that you'd have to do something pretty horrendous to have the shares taken away (as if the bonus had been cash, this wouldn't have been an option).

What also smarts is that the first I heard of this was today when I contacted the company administrating the shares on behalf of the employer. I have had nothing from the employer themselves explaining the these shares no longer belong to me.

Fairornot Tue 30-Jul-13 19:45:29

beast - I hope so! But then, they've had a huge crackdown on spending over the past few years and it's as though anywhere they can save, they do. You used to be entitled to a bonus whilst on maternity leave years ago, for example, but they changed the rules on this last year in order to save (and as it's a bonus, they're allowed to). So - as my maternity leave straddled two financial years, I got a pro rata bonus for the first year but not the second when the rules had been amended.

Honestly, if you knew which company this was (and I'd love to out them but can't), you'd be shocked.

hermioneweasley Tue 30-Jul-13 19:45:56

"good leaver" and "bad leaver" are technical terms, defined by the rules of the share scheme. It is not linked to whether they would re-employ you or whether you were a good employee, it is a set of defined rules. Typically "good leaver" will include redundancy and retirement. It may include death in service, and may include resignation in some circumstances (eg: ill health) at the discretion of a body (probably the remuneration committee). Resignation otherwise is almost always a "bad leaver", as is any other type of termination.

Does your career break policy cover treatment of shares and state that you will be a bad leaver?

You coukd try appealing to HR (find the most senior person possible and write personally t them) and explain yo didn't realise this implication; however given that the plans are bound by very strict rules, it is unlikely you'll get any joy. Sorry.

catgirl1976 England Tue 30-Jul-13 19:55:00

Sounds like you may have a sex discrimination case

Go back and ask for a written reason of why you now don't qualify.

Fairornot Tue 30-Jul-13 19:56:40

Hermione - I think you're right. It's just unfortunate that the terms have been used as part of both agreements. I absolutely get that the share scheme can issue its own rules etc, and that these are at their discretion. Equally, that a bonus is exactly that and can also be governed by its own rules. It's just frustrating as one old manager has already asked me to go back early, so (not to boast), I'm in demand in one sense, but in another, it feels as though I'm not valued enough to now deserve something that was issued based on work a few years ago.

Thank you to everyone for your views so far.

hermioneweasley Tue 30-Jul-13 19:58:46

Well if you are in demand then there is nothing to stop them paying you a cash bonus for returning! Cash bonuses are not governed by any prescriptive rules!

Fairornot Tue 30-Jul-13 20:02:11

Good point! Though they have become notoriously prudent (some would say mean!) of late.

Bogeyface Netherlands Tue 30-Jul-13 20:02:20

I tthink you need legal advice, this has sexual discrimination written all over it.

Dackyduddles Tue 30-Jul-13 20:07:50

I'm going to guess London. Poss canary wharf. Doesn't surprise me unfortunately. Only decent advice I can offer is recommendation for Barker Gillette LLP. I've used them personally. Marvellous people. Pm me for more info if want and specific name.

hermioneweasley Tue 30-Jul-13 20:11:06

I can't see how this has sex discrim written all over it. She resigned. This make her a bad leaver under the scheme rules. How is that sex discrimination?

Bogeyface Netherlands Tue 30-Jul-13 20:12:53

Because her leave was agreed with her employer and the resignation as a technicality that they insisted on for her to have the leave. It is totally different to her leaving for another job. She had the leave to be a full time mother safe in the knowledge she would have a job back at the end of it. So if they want her back then she isnt a bad leaver, therefore she shouldnt have lost her shares. This has all happened because she had a baby.

Fairornot Tue 30-Jul-13 20:14:06

Gosh, I honestly don't know. What would you say was the sex discrimination bit? That it's mainly women who take career breaks and so they're unfairly disadvantaged if they take one in the years following the award of a share based bonus? As it seems this automatically disqualifies them from the bonus once those shares vest?

Maybe I should check with a solicitor. I'm just not sure if it's worth it as surely, as Hermione said, share schemes and bonuses are governed by their own rules. I think I'd be confident if this was something that was part of my actual contract, but as bonuses and shares are extras, I don't know if the same rules apply.

Bogeyface Netherlands Tue 30-Jul-13 20:14:21

And the fact that she has been asked to return early is further proof that she is an asset to the company and considered a good employee which is totally at odds with their reason for taking her shares away. This is all aside from the fact that she has at no point been informed that her shares, that she thought she owned, have been taken from her.

hermioneweasley Tue 30-Jul-13 20:15:45

No, she took advantage of a policy which allows her to resign and facilitates her return to workplace, if she chooses to. The policy is equally open to men and women (I assume). She resigned, therefore is a bad leaver under the scheme.

Bogeyface Netherlands Tue 30-Jul-13 20:15:58

That it's mainly women who take career breaks and so they're unfairly disadvantaged if they take one in the years following the award of a share based bonus? As it seems this automatically disqualifies them from the bonus once those shares vest?

Yep. That.

And if bonuses/shares form part of your contract of employment then although they can govern the schemes to their advantage as they see fit, they still cannot break the law or your contract and they seem to have done at least one and possibly both of those things.

ActionLog Tue 30-Jul-13 20:16:34

Everything hermione said. I think you're confusing leaving on good or bad terms with technical rules and if you've actually resigned then I doubt you will be a good leaver. I also totally fail to see where the sex discrim is.

Fairornot Tue 30-Jul-13 20:16:53

X-post Bogeyface. To take a career break, yes, you do have to resign, and give back IT equipment etc, but equally you remain bound by certain intellectual property agreements and are supposed to inform them if you were to take up employment elsewhere during that time... So - you sort of being to them, when it suits them!

Fairornot Tue 30-Jul-13 20:17:08

Belong, not being

Bogeyface Netherlands Tue 30-Jul-13 20:17:44

Hermione what part dont you get? She couldnt take the leave without resigning. She didnt make those rules, her employers did. She had no choice. They wanted to know that they were getting a good employee back but also to be able to withold her earned bonuses. That is sharp practice at best and, because of the reasons the OP gave above, SD at worst.

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