Assistant on short term contract and maternity leave

(8 Posts)
namechangeforissue Wed 05-Feb-14 16:29:26

I'm a university lecturer, and my lovely research assistant has recently found out she's pregnant.

She's on a short term contract funded by a Research Council. The baby is due some months before her official contract ends. She definitely won't be getting any occupational maternity leave, we aren't sure about SMP, but that is not really the question here.

The funding for this job is a fixed amount and they very rarely give you any extra money, even for a good reason. They will usually give you extra time if it doesn't cost them anything (normally you are supposed to use up the money in the original time frame, but that part shouldn't be a problem, and it isn't an operational problem for the project either, really - we're OK to finish later if we have to).

Now, the co-supervisor and I would be fairly happy for her to stop work around the time the baby is born, take a break of a few months, and finish the last few months of her contract.

Or, we'd be happy to find someone to do the last few months as maternity cover.

But what we aren't sure about is whether as her contract will be ending, will she have a right to ask for her job back (i.e. the remaining few months of her pay) if she is still on maternity leave but the original contract ended?

So suppose we find maternity cover, and then after the cover finishes, she says she wants to return to work (or, in fact, before the cover finishes)?

This would be great for us in one way (as we'd get more person-hours) but not in another (as we'd have no money to pay both her and the maternity cover). Except we are sneakily wondering if the research council, or our university, would actually have to pay her for the remaining months of the contract? Would that be the case as her contract was for X months?

Katz Wed 05-Feb-14 16:31:24

Double check you unis mat leave policy. Ours is really good. when I was an RA my grant was paused whilst I was on mat leave, I had paid mat leave from the Uni and then my grant restarted.

namechangeforissue Wed 05-Feb-14 16:34:32

I actually just looked at the government SMP calculator and she seems to have started work one day earlier than her qualifying work start date - wow - that was handy!

The official maternity leave policy just says "Talk to HR about whether your contract can be extended". Which I suspect means HR will say "it's up to the grant holder, if they have no more money, tough". But that doesn't sound right to me.

namechangeforissue Wed 05-Feb-14 16:35:13

(Or, I should really say, that doesn't sound fair to me. It may of course be correct. Any mat pay will be from the Government not the Uni anyway).

Katz Wed 05-Feb-14 16:39:59

For me my grant didn't pay mat leave, the university did, it was an RCUK one too.

Katz Wed 05-Feb-14 16:42:01

Oh there was no mat cover for my post, that's how it was frozen.

namechangeforissue Wed 05-Feb-14 16:45:59

OK that might work - I guess we have to take the risk she doesn't want to come back then? or wants to wait a full year? It would be hard (but not impossible) to wait a year for her to come back.

Speccymummy Wed 05-Feb-14 21:45:25

From an employment law point of view, maternity leave doesn't affect an end date for a fixed term contract. The employee remains an employee until their contracted end date, even if their maternity leave starts before this so they aren't actually in the office. You can't 'freeze' the contract as such, and you can't end the contract early on the basis an employee is pregnant, as this would be discrimination (know you didn't say you were planning on doing this but thought worth mentioning). If you did want to extend the contract you could do, just be aware that employment benefits such as annual leave and length of service will continue to accrue whilst the employee is on maternity leave. You also don't know how long she will want to take, and she might not want to return to work. It depends what you want to achieve - if you want to increase your chances to secure her you could extend her contract now - but this won't be easy on the basis you won't know how long you'll need to extend for as I assume you can't wait indefinitely, and even then she might choose to not return. Or you could let the contract end, and see if she wants to return later on. This could be argued to be continuous service anyway, if only maternity leave breaks it.

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