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Any employment law bods about?

(16 Posts)
matwork Mon 09-Jun-14 14:58:46

My work situation is complicated and long, but if anyone has any advice for me, I�d be most grateful.

I�ve been with my current employer (huge bluechip) for 6.5 years. Due to restructuring we were all told that there would be a voluntary redundancy scheme for which everyone could apply if they didn�t like the look of the new operating model.

I�m due to go on maternity leave for a year with DC2 from 1st July and have also been told that the flexibility that I currently benefit from in my working patterns/location probably won�t exist when I return from maternity leave. I�ve made some noise about this and (naively?) told them that I will require flexibility when I go back. Work has said that they can�t guarantee that now and it would need to be considered closer to my return, but that as part of the new operating model it�s unlikely to be supported. They are recruiting for my maternity cover as we speak (pretty late in the day given I told them I was pregnant in Jan, but there we go�) and have also said that I wouldn�t have been accepted for VR if I�d applied (because I�m still required operationally and that my job isn�t changing that much), and couldn�t have offered me that whilst actively recruiting for my replacement and it�s all very complex around redundancy and maternity legally. But that they could offer a settlement agreement instead. The benefit for them is that they can recruit for someone permanently instead of just for 12 months and get the continuity and have someone 5 days a week in the office (I would want 3 days in the office or max 4 days a week with 2 from home).

They�ve said the settlement agreement would include a figure that costs them no more than the cost of me being on maternity leave for the year. This would include my enhanced maternity pay (ie SMP plus additional company paid mat pay) and my car allowance. I�ve asked them to factor in pension (6% employer contributions) and childcare vouchers too, as well as next year's potential bonus and annual leave too. I don�t know how they work out my total cost to them for the year, as obviously there are employer class 1a NI contributions and they can reclaim 92% of my SMP too.

On the face of it, the settlement doesn�t sound too attractive because it means I�m officially unemployed in 3 weeks (my end date would be 30th June) and potentially no better off financially than if I�d stayed. I�m quite prepared to not take the offer, take a punt on the flexibility in 10/11 months� time and worst case scenario do my obligatory 30 days when I get back so I don�t have to repay the enhanced portion of maternity pay and then look for something else, whilst benefitting from FT salary (albeit only temporarily � I could grit my teeth and bare it for a month or two only), and either have my accrued annual leave paid out or use it during my notice period. (They must surely be aware of this as I�ve made it clear that the flexibility is really important to me so am hoping I'll be pleasantly surprised by the settlement offer but am not holding my breath).

Additionally, everyone applying to be my maternity cover has salary expectations of approx �20k higher than my current salary. Anyone expecting around the range of my salary (�45k+�5k car allowance) is seemingly too junior. I�ve pointed out that this is a bit of a kick in the teeth (though this has been something I�ve been mumbling at them for a few years) as it is glaringly obvious that I�m underpaid. Our salaries are reviewed annually and I�m expecting a small increase and a 10% bonus this year � the pay rise kicks in on 1st June and the bonus is paid on 30th June. I won�t see the benefit of the pay rise now because my maternity pay will be calculated using this years� salary. I think I�m eligible to be part of the review next year too though going by my last pay rise and bonus whilst on maternity leave it won�t be anything substantial. I think I could possibly push this point and ask for an increase to �60k for the my return on 1st July next year, but I suspect that would wipe out any chance I�d have of getting any flexible working approved. But then again, I'd probably suck it for the month or so then leave anyway.

I�m not really too sure what I�m looking for by posting this but have been wondering whether to seek advice on all of this from Citizens Advice or an employment lawyer. I�ve told them that they muddied the waters by releasing the VR scheme to all and sundry (including to a big chunk of people who wouldn�t ever get it) because actually, I would�ve just sat tight through my maternity leave and discussed the flexibility when I was due to return and worried about it later. I guess they don�t have to give me anything to leave with now. The annoying thing is that the VR scheme was announced on 30th April and open for applications between 6th and 23rd May and during this time I was repeatedly asking how my maternity leave/pay would be effected if I opted for the VR scheme (at that point they hadn�t said I wouldn�t be eligible). Finally I got a call on Thursday (5th June) saying they still didn�t have the figures, but that I wouldn't be eligible for VR but they would consider the settlement....

Either way I�m due to finish work on 30th June so have just over 3 weeks to get this sorted. And obviously amongst all that I�m 34 weeks pregnant, fat, tired and hormonal!

I�m concerned they won�t explain the offer calculation so I�ll be to-ing and fro-ing with that for a while and wish they�d just given me all the facts and figures when I first enquired about what my options were on 1st May!

ARGH. Thanks for reading if you got this far!

matwork Mon 09-Jun-14 15:03:46

Sorry about the random question mark symbols. I typed this in an outlook email and then copy pasted it over!

I should probably add that when I returned to work after my first lot of mat leave, I being paid FT but using the ridiculous amounts of annual leave I'd accrued, juggled carefully with bank holidays to only work a 3 day week intially, then went up to 4 days after 4 months of being back.

I'm also a homeworker and do 7-3 so have got it pretty cushty, though travel in to London whenever required. Homeworker contracts can be rescinded with 3 months notice so it was always a possibility that I could be hoiked back into an office.

LancashireMan Mon 09-Jun-14 15:51:42

Doesn't sound as though you're going to see an amazing settlement offer. I don't see any advantage for you in rushing things. Maybe you should put forward your own settlement figure so they can see how far apart the numbers are. If you /they can't agree, go on maternity leave and continue to haggle on the settlement figure. I know it's not ideal, but, other than the cleaness of a swift settlement, I think you might be rushing things here when there might be more to be gained. Plus of course, you will know that best laid plans on restructuring by blue chips seldom pan out as planned by some head honcho in a glass bowl at the top of the ivory tower.

matwork Mon 09-Jun-14 20:03:29

They would want me to go the day my mat leave starts because they reckon there would be a rigmarole because I'd effectively be stating that I didn't want to return to work after mat leave. And by doing that I would lose my enhanced mat pay and have to pay back any that had been paid over to me whilst the gagging was going on.

Someone else did say that it might work more in my favour to not rush things so that I start mat leave, return after a year and then push for a leaver package.

I dunno. It's annoying me that it's dragging on now.

matwork Mon 09-Jun-14 20:04:25

So in effect I wouldn't be going on maternity leave, my last day of service would be 30th June.

LancashireMan Mon 09-Jun-14 20:43:55

What I also meant (but failed to say) in my previous post, was that, whilst on maternity leave with the official intention of returning, would you have the opportunity to look for another position? I realise it would not be ideal having the baby to look after at the same time. The backstop if you didn't find anything would be to return to work - find that it's unbearable - and resign.

matwork Mon 09-Jun-14 21:06:31

Definitely. In fact, I was all geared up to leave and take the leaver package and had been getting excited at the prospect of investigating freelance or PT opportunities etc. but that was on the (incorrect) assumption that I'd be employed still until next year so no huge gaps on my cv.

But yes, I'd basically use the safety net of at least having a job to go back to as back up. Who knows, the flexibility might be more accommodating then as I know the switch back to mainly office-based working is ruffling a lot of feathers.

Can't deny that the lump sum is/was attractive though - just need to keep it in perspective with the bigger picture I guess.

matwork Mon 09-Jun-14 21:08:28

Oh and FWIW, leaver package is a month for every year if service (calculated to the day).

Mat pay is full pay for 18 weeks, half pay for 8 weeks, smp for renaming 26.

Arion Mon 09-Jun-14 21:40:47

If you have a salary increase after your qualifying week, it must be taken into account with your maternity pay and your rate re-calculated.

This info is near the end of the maternity pay answer here

flowery Mon 09-Jun-14 21:43:36

"They would want me to go the day my mat leave starts because they reckon there would be a rigmarole because I'd effectively be stating that I didn't want to return to work after mat leave. And by doing that I would lose my enhanced mat pay and have to pay back any that had been paid over to me whilst the gagging was going on."

There's no reason a settlement couldn't include enhanced maternity pay or anything else while removing the condition of returning to work.

Have you been given the settlement agreement to review? Your employer needs to pay for you to get it checked by a solicitor, and that's your opportunity to talk through every aspect of your situation and get advice on whether the offer is a good one, whether you have any kind of case for anything and what the implications of taking the settlement would be.

matwork Tue 10-Jun-14 09:10:00

Nope, all they said last Weds was that they couldn't offer me the VR but could instead offer a settlement agreement and that if I was interested I should let them know and they'd calculate the figures.

I told them I couldn't be sure as to what my level of interest would be until I'd seen the figures so could they please proceed with the calculation and that I'd appreciate by close of play Friday. They said the person dealing with it was off and would run it over the weekend but I'm still yet to see anything!

flowery Tue 10-Jun-14 09:37:22

Ok, well when they provide a draft agreement that's when they should confirm that they will fund legal costs for you to take advice about the agreement, and the implications of accepting it. You are not obliged to accept it just because they've done that though, you are still at liberty to say no, so I'd say if you are seriously considering this, go ahead with reviewing the agreement and seeking legal advice, and then if you're not happy, and would prefer a wait-and-see approach, then do that.

matwork Tue 10-Jun-14 09:42:11

Yes ultimately it will be the figure that swings it rather than the t&c's per se. They've said they'd like me to stay but I guess they are going to day that so that I can't use anything negative against them later... I'm not holding out much for a decent offer. So this kind of feels like a pointless exercise....

Just bored of waiting now!

matwork Tue 10-Jun-14 12:00:29

<sigh> my maternity cover is being offered £60k........

Rufus200 Sat 14-Jun-14 13:51:54

Unless the settlement agreement is much better then your maternity pay I would stay employed and deal with it when it is time for you return to work. Financial situations can change in a year and you may find you need to work then and will have regretted giving up your job.

matwork Sun 15-Jun-14 20:59:29

Thanks Rufus. Long story short is that my line manager has been meddling and making things 100x worse. The settlement figure was marginally more than the mat pay but not an incentive to go. My big boss said they'd never planned to incentivise me to go. I said I was gutted about the higher salary of my mat cover and that my recent promotion was long overdue and still nowhere near this new girl's money. He said they'd wanted to promote me 2.5 years ago but my meddling line manager (who had it in for me at that time) had said I wasn't right for it shock.

We ended up having a really frank conversation and I feel relieved as I got a good few things off my chest and feel more positive about the options for post-mat leave. Thanks to my line manager this has been nothing but a storm in a teacup.

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