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Too late to cancel childcare vouchers before mat leave?

(17 Posts)
strawberryfool Thu 07-Feb-13 08:52:49

Morning all, hoping someone can help, I've got myself in a right pickle! (Long winded but please stay with it!)
I'm pregnant with ds2 and due to start mat leave in 6 weeks. I've just found out if I wanted to cancel the childcare vouchers I should have cancelled them before my 17th week of pregnancy. Don't ask me why I didn't think to check this earlier I just didn't think about it sad I earn approx £1900, which includes £243 in childcare vouchers. As I haven't cancelled them I stand to lose that £243 as my maternity leave will be based on the basic rate.
My HR dept at work say its too late to do anything now, as maternity leave is based on the last two (monthly) paycheques. They did suggest suspending them, but am thinking I just need to cancel them. I want to have a year off, but am now really concerned as the money could be taken off my smp as well. Am finding the whole thing a bit of a minefield to be honest, am not able to find answers online. Also really upset and stressed as I feel that I've been a bit trapped, as I joined the scheme three years ago, and feel I wouldn't have remembered the small print this far on, and haven't been given any info on this since being preganant, (although the basic jist I get is its my own fault.) Has anyone else been through this and can you do anything about it?

FlamingGallah Thu 07-Feb-13 09:06:09

Depending on your employer, it may work out for the best that you didn't reduce/cancel them! In our scheme/HR small print, I found out that my employer (NHS) still pays your childcare voucher contributions even for the 6 months that you're not receiving any salary- it's called a non cash benefit or something. So effectively you get £243 x 6 paid into your childcare account for free.

Worth checking with your HR?

Fuchzia Thu 07-Feb-13 09:17:09

My unpaid mat leave worked out the same as Flaming's in that they paid this on top of mat beneifit. If you are having only statutory pay then they are not allowed to make deductions from this.

FlamingGallah Thu 07-Feb-13 09:20:15

Have just googled "non cash benefits" and there's lots of stuff out there that supports it- sorry not got a clue how to link on phone. I wouldn't leave the scheme as they've now reduced the amount that you can salary sacrifice, depending on your tax bracket.

Also the electronic voucher schemes usually have no expiry date, and with 2 kids in childcare when you return, I suspect you will use up your accrued vouchers very rapidly. I'm no accountant, but I suspect that the small amount of benefit you would have reaped in your mat pay from having a higher salary in the assessment period will be more than offset by the extra "free" vouchers you get in the second unpaid 6 months of your year off.

strawberryfool Thu 07-Feb-13 09:26:42

Thanks - the thing is I want to reduce the amount of childcare we use over my mat leave, so probably wouldn't need the full amount as dd1 is now elegible for 15 free hours and will start school in Sept. Can you store up the vouchers on return from mat leave? Still not sure I can compensate for the loss while I'm off though - I need to do some sums, but am worried its all to late to do anything. Like I say I've got myself in a right pickle.

FlamingGallah Thu 07-Feb-13 09:33:32

Absolutely you can store them up! Do you have an electronic voucher scheme? I accrued a years worth of vouchers while on mat leave and have been spending them ever since. Pretty sure you can use them for eg out of school clubs etc right up until your child leaves school. And you can use them to pay for either child, it's not restricted to a particular one.

In our scheme you can reduce at any time if there's a change in circumstance, with one months notice.

In the first instance I'd advise getting as much info about your scheme as possible from HR. If you are intending on using paid childcare for our second child on you return to work, you will easily use up your accrued vouchers IMO, and you will hopefully have been given an extra £1200 of vouchers for nothing.

strawberryfool Thu 07-Feb-13 09:56:43

Thanks so much thats really useful to know. I guess that will have to be the best of a bad situation. In an ideal world I would have liked to just pull out of the scheme, as it will mean a tight year while I'm off, even if I can use the accrued vouchers on my return. Really appreciate your advice tho! Feel a bit calmer now. Am going to do the math with HR tomorrow.

flowery Thu 07-Feb-13 10:00:51

Most women are far better off staying in the scheme than coming out. Yes your SMP is based on the adjusted salary, but vouchers can't be deducted from SMP so for any time that you are on SMP only or are on unpaid maternity leave, you get free vouchers.

strawberryfool Thu 07-Feb-13 10:06:13

Oh flowery are you sure? If that is the case then I guess its not all bad?

flowery Thu 07-Feb-13 11:00:16

Yes. Vouchers are a contractual non cash benefit, which means your employer must continue providing them to you throughout your maternity leave. Same as you still accrue holiday and still get any other non cash benefits you might have, for example if you had a company car you could keep it, or private health care must still be funded, that type of thing. You can save the vouchers up if you don't need to use them all.

While you are on SMP only, your employer is not allowed to take the £243 out, or any amount in fact, so for any time you are only getting SMP, you will get vouchers as well.

If you get any enhanced maternity pay, your employer can make deductions from that element while you are on it, but that's usually not for long anyway.

strawberryfool Thu 07-Feb-13 12:17:51

Thanks flowery! Will update with what transpires!

Charleymouse Thu 07-Feb-13 12:22:18

Strawberry I was in the same boat as you and mistakenly did not cancel as advised but was actually better off as a result of not cancelling them.
HTH

strawberryfool Thu 07-Feb-13 18:24:39

Thanks Charleymouse that sounds promising! Am going to ask HR to clarify that they will keep paying them for the whole mat leave, and let me store up unused ones for when I go back. Well done mumsneters I'd never have got this advice anywhere else! I'll update with the outcome.

littlemonkeychops Fri 08-Feb-13 19:49:53

Wow Flowery this is news to me, but good news.

Sorry to hijack the thread, but just to make sure i am not being completely stupid.....

I'm going on mat leave in may and will take 12 months off. My employer offers enhanced mat pay which for me will work out a couple of hundred pounds over smp, but i have to promise to go back to work for 6 months afterwards (which i may well do but there's a possibility we might have to move for DH's work so it would be nice not to have to commit).

Now seeing as i get the full £243 a month in vouchers, they will deduct most of my enhanced pay, so i'd end up with about smp anyway.

So can it really be true that i can decline the enhanced pay on the basis i don't want to commit to going back, and so will get smp and full vouchers??!

If so that's brilliant, just want to check i'm not missing something??

MrAnchovy Fri 08-Feb-13 23:29:39

This has been the case since October 2008 and while some employers were slow to catch up, it is now fairly well known that this is what they have to do.

littlemonkeychops Sat 09-Feb-13 09:35:57

thank you, that's great, i'll get on to HR about it, funnily enough no one
has mentioned this option to me ;-) Hooray for mumsnet!

strawberryfool Sat 02-Mar-13 08:18:07

Hi sorry haven't posted a message back - was hoping to be able to give an outcome but no. Basically my HR adviser and I decided I would be better off staying in the scheme than pulling out this late. I will have to pay in £243 into the childcare account, but they will take £243 off my basic salary during the 'paid' part of my leave, but my employer has 'agreed' to pay for my vouchers for the 'unpaid' part of my leave, providing i sign a form to say i will definitely return after my year off. I think that I might still be worse off in the end, but is a case if damage limitation!
Trouble is I still haven't had anything in writing to confirm this, or even if my mat leave has been granted as the forms that I did complete with my manager were not submitted! I have a week and a half until my mat leave is due to start! I will let you know the outcome as soon as I know myself!

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