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Definition of 'service' in staff handbook

(5 Posts)
PetShopGirl Thu 27-Sep-12 13:33:19

I think this may be a bit of a no hoper, but wondered if I might have a valid point here in relation to the word 'service' in our staff handbook.

Background is that I've worked for the same civil service organisation for three years, however for the first two and a half years I was employed through an employment agency as a temp. I've been on a short-term temporary appointment employed directly by the organisation since 1st March this year and I've now been offered a permanent position. I'm currently 30 weeks pregnant, and due to start maternity leave on 29th November (with 3 weeks annual leave preceding). The reason I was a temp for so long was because I was caught by the civil service recruitment freeze following the 2010 general election, so there have been absolutely no opportunities to apply for any jobs as an external candidate until recently. As soon as I was able, I applied for and was offered, 'my' job. I have been a dedicated member of the team throughout, and treated as though I were a permanent employee - expected to travel, overnight trips etc, go the extra mile, deal with particularly challenging and demanding personalities etc. And I have always had the highest level of performance review and feedback.

I am not eligible for contractual maternity benefit, and just scrape in by 2 days as being eligible for statutory. Contractual = 6 months full pay, 13 weeks statutory, 13 weeks unpaid and Statutory = the usual 6 weeks at 90% etc etc. A big difference. I'm obviously pretty cheesed off about this, and have made various representations via my line manager which have been met by an HR stone wall so far. To really rub it in, a colleague/friend of mine is a month behind me in her pregnancy, yet started working for the organisation 7 months after me (in fact I was involved in her induction), but as she has always been a permanent employee she is eligible for the full maternity benefit. I have worked no less hard than her.

Our staff handbook states that you need one year's 'service' to qualify for contractual benefit. I have just spoken to one of our HR policy advisors (not involved with my case so far) who has confirmed that the definition of 'service' is not actually set out in the handbook, or anywhere else for that matter. My question is, might I have the slightest glimmer of an argument to say that I have in fact been 'serving' the organisation for over three years now? It does not say anywhere that you need one year's 'employment'.

Also, the feedback I've had so far in relation to my representations is that the organisation is sympathetic to my position, but terrified of setting any precedent in relation to temporary workers. However, I'm just wondering now whether this could be a loop-hole in that they could allow me the enhanced benefit based on this technicality, and then change the wording in the handbook to protect against any future claims (of which there are likely to be very few indeed - the recruitment freeze and consequent long-term temp issues are extraordinary circumstances unlikely to be repeated). Obviously I am not a lawyer/HR professional so no idea if that's even remotely viable!

I do know it's all a bit of a long-shot, but thanks in advance for any thoughts!

PetShopGirl Thu 27-Sep-12 13:37:06

And a further point/question - is it incumbent on an organisation/business to actually set out definitions of such significant terms in their HR policy?

BobbiFleckman Thu 27-Sep-12 13:40:51

have you looked at your contract to see if it has backdated your commencement of continuous service date? not unusual in private sector in this situation.

PetShopGirl Thu 27-Sep-12 13:42:52

Commencement of continuous service date is definitely 1st March 2012 unfortunately, and apparently absolutely no way of backdating.

hermioneweasley Thu 27-Sep-12 20:40:07

There is no requirement to define service in a handbook. Service is the continuous service date in your contract. I am sorry you won't qualify.

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