My employer has recently ended the childcare voucher scheme on the basis that 'cost neutrality' to the company can no longer be guaranteed. The basis for this is due to the HMRC reconsidering a position on tax and due to an ongoing employment tribunal where someone is arguing they should be eligible whilst on maternity. No other employer anywhere appears to be doing this and it is obviously leaving many parents (including me) in a position where they struggle further financially. Has anyone else come across this or have any ideas on how to fight it? The union got involved but were told that as it's a salary sacrifice scheme they can withdraw it at any point with little warning, which is exactly what they did!
Well it's correct that people are entitled to keep receiving vouchers when on maternity leave. Your employer is not obliged to offer the scheme, however your best way of fighting it is by saying that withdrawal of vouchers and replacement with money is a change to your terms and conditions for which your consent is required. The change is not cost-neutral for you, and represents a reduction in real-terms income.
Closing it to new entrants isn't allowable - to qualify as a salary sacrifice scheme where the vouchers are tax free, the scheme needs to be available to everyone, or at least everyone at a specific location.
Thanks for your replies but to clarify, my employer has ended the scheme for EVERYBODY. Not just those on maternity! The reason that they have given is twofold; somebody on maternity who is arguing that they should still receive vouchers is involved in a tribunal + HMRC are re-considering their position on tax. Depending on the outcome of these two factors, they are arguing that it could start costing them to offer the scheme so have ended it pre-emptively.
If they are based in the same place as you maxmillie they definitely shouldn't be doing that regardless of contracts and pensions
"For any of your employees to qualify for the exemption, you should provide childcare vouchers in a scheme that is: open to all of your employees, or open to all of your employees based at the location where the scheme operates. This means that you should not exclude any employees from your scheme, for example on the grounds of: gender seniority or position level of pay length of service absence due to maternity leave."