Help! Need to know what I can do about childcare voucher issue at work.
In brief, I work in the NHS and had full £243 childcare vouchers for my older child as part of a salary sacrifice scheme before I went on Maternity Leave.
I was advised to drop this to £1 contribution before the 17th week of the pregnancy to ensure that I got the maximum maternity leave pay (as salary would be full rate for calculation of maternity pay).
I did this and have been paying only £1 of salary into vouchers. At the time I was also advised I could change back to £243 after 12 months. 12 months is up shortly and I want to increase voucher allowance back upto £243. However this will start whilst I am still on SMP (last 3 months of maternity leave). Consequently work will be liable to pay the childcare vouchers as you can't deduct from SMP.
Spoke to work HR and they have told me that even though I could in theory increase my vouchers to £243 they won't let me whilst I am on maternity leave because they are liable and stated I am 'milking the system'. They said they would honour the £1 I had been making till I return to work and they would have honoured £243, had I been claiming this to date but as I haven't they won't change my contributions now.
Can they do this? Surely that's a benefit I am entitled to? And it's up to me how much of my £243 tax free allowance I want to use? I am not trying to 'milk any system' but just want what I am entitled to especially after many years of loyal service and overtime!! Can someone help as need advice about how to take this forward urgently.... Thank you in advance.
I think you were advised to drop down to £1 for the sole reason that they would avoid paying the full £243 whilst you were on SMP. Surely it wouldn't make any difference to your maternity pay if you'd remained at £243 as you would still receive the same pay, just that £243 of it would have been in vouchers rather than pay.
I'm no expert but I've just finished my second maternity leave and it would not have been at all beneficial for me to reduce my childcare voucher element. I received the full £243 in addition to SMP so it was very worthwhile using the scheme.
As far as I can see, your employer has been the only one to benefit from you dropping down to £1. Very convenient for them.......I'm guessing they were the ones that advised you to drop the amount originally?
I suspect they are probably correct in saying you can't increase your entitlement whilst on maternity as yes, it would be 'milking the system' if you only increased it once someone else was paying for them. However in my opinion, you should never have been advised to drop it in the first place.
I may be wrong though as my only knowledge of the vouchers is from claiming them.
"Surely it wouldn't make any difference to your maternity pay if you'd remained at £243"
Yes it would. Maternity pay would have been calculated at the higher amount and working for the NHS I expect the OP got a decent occupational maternity scheme, out of which vouchers can be deducted, so it may have been worth it.
For employees who only get SMP, it would not usually be worth it.
OP you are milking the system, and vouchers having to be provided on top of SMP is a bit of an anomaly, but there's nothing wrong with doing that - why shouldn't you arrange things so you benefit as much as possible?!
Your voucher scheme will have rules of use that won't be discretionary. If the rules of the scheme state that you vary the amount of vouchers you receive during maternity leave, then do so. If HR/anyone say they are going to deny you access to the variation clause of the scheme because you are on maternity leave, make noises about discrimination and consider a grievance, as you are entitled not to be treated less favourably because of your maternity leave.
Thank you for the replies. I have spoken to Maternity Action and have taken on board the advice here and their advice, and will be applying to work formally in writing. I will update when I know more. Thanks again for your help - it is appreciated.
Wrote to work formally after advice from Maternity Action noting discrimination grounds. Work written back and still refusing to change vouchers. Told me can increase on return from ML only.
Really annoyed as other than take them to a tribunal (more costs for me that I don't have ), there is nothing I can do. They won't honour their previous agreement to increase my vouchers after 12 months as it makes them liable to pay the vouchers and I feel like there is nothing I can do.