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career break (short term) straight after maternity leave

(31 Posts)
bt77 Mon 06-Mar-17 10:46:44

I wonder if anyone has experience in this area that may be able to offer assistance. NHS HR are hopeless and Citizens Advice are taking an age to get back.

Our situation is this:

My wife is currently due to return to work at the end of April following the end of her maternity leave. However we have been really hit for six with the news that our 9 month old daughter requires heart surgery at Great Ormond St Hospital in early April. Given the likely recovery period from such major surgery my wife was hoping to taking a career break for a few months over this period to be at home with our daughter as she recovers back to full health.

However she has been told by NHS HR that it is impossible to go straight from maternity leave to a career break (whatever the circumstances!!) and she will be required to work a minimum of a working day per week or else repay her maternity pay.

I would really appreciate if someone could help advise us on this. To me this sounds like clear discrimination against my wife as had the need to take this emergency career break occured at any other time there would not have been an issue. The fact it occurs straight after maternity leave, when such heart defects often occur, means she is being penalised for taking maternity and then wanting to be off and care for our daughter.

Any thoughts would be gratefully received, thanks ever so much x

FlysInDreams Mon 06-Mar-17 10:49:16

Can you take the time off instead?

bt77 Mon 06-Mar-17 10:52:39

I will be taking annual leave during the period as will my wife but she understandably wants to be off for longer. She works in the cardiac field herself so understands how serious the surgery and aftercare is going to be.

daisychain01 Mon 06-Mar-17 12:16:47

I think it will help your case if you and your wife can decide exactly how much time she will take off as your description sounds rather open ended which I expect an employer outdated not like the sound of.

Are you able to get Paternity leave off? Then you could use that for the first few weeks, enabling your wife to return to work, then she could arrange a further 4 weeks leave from her employer which would immediately follow your leave, sort of tag-team. It could give quite a reasonable period of leave between the two of you.

Sorry for any inaccurate assumptions, just trying to work with info you've given.

Re potential discrimination have you contacted ACAS as they may be able to give insights on that.

daisychain01 Mon 06-Mar-17 12:17:44

Sorry it should say might not not outdated!

PotteringAlong Mon 06-Mar-17 12:20:28

But it's not discrimination - in most jobs with an enhanced maternity package they are very clear that you need to work for a minimum amount of time after you finish maternity leave or pay it back.

If she wants to be off for the surgery and not pay back her maternity pay she needs to go back earlier and work the notice period.

LivininaBox Mon 06-Mar-17 12:27:02

I think the HR are wrong. I expect the requirement is that you INTEND to return to work. Your wife intends to return to work but is being prevented by an unforeseen and serious health problem. Perhaps the problem here is that she needs to ask for parental leave or compassionate leave rather than a career break? And can she not go back before the op for a few weeks? Also she will have accrued annual leave during may leave which can count towards her 6 months of work.

LIZS Mon 06-Mar-17 12:32:30

It does depend on the wording of the conditions put on occupational maternity pay. Could she use any accumulated annual leave in the short term?

Boobiebalfie Mon 06-Mar-17 12:45:05

I have just returned from a 6 months career break straight after mat leave(civil service).
Hr advised me at the time I made my request that if I did not return AFTER my break I would then repay the enhanced element of my mat pay.
If the career break is the same with NHS as civil service she will still be employed but on an amended 0 hour contract for 6months,
The staff handbook should have plenty of information on this as mine even had a section career break straight after mat leave.
Could she ask a colleague to email this to her from the intranet if he are being unhelpful.

Boobiebalfie Mon 06-Mar-17 12:46:05

*HR not he

ClaraLane Mon 06-Mar-17 13:19:36

How long has your wife been on maternity leave - if she's not taken the full year she could ask to extend her maternity leave period. I think the issue is that she has to return to work for a period of 3 months following maternity leave or she'll have to return her occupational pay. Could she not work one day a week and you have one day off a week to spend with your daughter?

bt77 Mon 06-Mar-17 13:21:56

Daisychain unfortunately at this stage things are openended as we are unsure:

1: how successful surgery will be?
2: how long our daughter will be on intensive care before even being released home
3: how long her convalescence will be until back to relative normality

I have already had my paternity leave when our daughter was born and my wife is intending to take her accrued annual leave at the end of her maternity leave. Our issue is when that ends essentially as it is extremely unlikely that our daughter will be well enough at that stage for my wife to return to work, even part-time. However it is her intention to return once our little one is well wnough.

bt77 Mon 06-Mar-17 13:27:14


My wife's period of maternity leave is due to run out just after the likely surgery date at which points she intends to take her accrued annual leave. The other issue is that she herself works with patients with terminal heart and lung problems, not an ideal working environment given the surgwery our daughter is to have.

ClaraLane Mon 06-Mar-17 14:15:46

Has she taken the full year of maternity leave then? She can still take the annual leave at the end of the maternity leave but she'll need a plan for when her annual leave ends. If her hospital isn't happy for her to have a career break then she'll have to look into coming back on reduced hours or she'll need to be signed off sick by her GP which may be the best bet particularly regarding the area she works in and your daughters illness.

FATEdestiny Mon 06-Mar-17 14:24:02

If all else fails, continue as if planning on returning work. A few days before she is due to restart, get signed off sick from the doctors. One would imagine she will be under significant amounts of stress and pressure at that time, so unable to work even if she wanted.

CottonSock Mon 06-Mar-17 14:27:06

I'm sure a gp would sign her off too

daisychain01 Mon 06-Mar-17 15:00:56

Might be worth your DW booking an appointment with her GP shortly because it would be a good idea for her GP to have noted on her record the stress levels she is undoubtedly suffering now. It will mean when she does advise her employer she has been signed off sick with stress, there will already be a precedent set on her medical record. Good to have all bases covered.

So very sorry that you are both in such a terrible situation, and that your little daughter goes on to make a full recovery.

Just a thought, even if she requests say for example 6 - 9 months off as a career break but things work out for the best, I expect she could return to work sooner, if all goes well. Fingers crossed.

sophr2017 Mon 06-Mar-17 15:27:23

ACAS are a great help with anything like this, might be worth giving them a call? They are unbiased and support both employees and employers and are likely to be able to offer advise on this. Also worth mentioning to HR that you are seeking their advice, as that will often make them look at things twice!

Alternatively, can you DW not put into writing that she is taking further unpaid leave, rather than a career break/extended holiday? There must be info on her employee handbook regarding exceptional circumstances for unpaid leave/leave of absence?

Hope all goes well with your little girl and sorry to hear you're facing this

BellyBean Mon 06-Mar-17 22:04:37

What about parental leave? Youre entitled to quite a large number of weeks unpaid by the time your child is 16/18 and as a parent can take this at any time, I don't see why she couldn't tack it onto mat leave. Otherwise you could take it yourself. It's unpaid obviously.

Would it be easier if you asked for a career break?

HelenDenver Mon 06-Mar-17 22:21:47

Can she go back nominally a day a week but take that day a week as holiday? Rules may prevent this holiday pattern, of course

HelenDenver Mon 06-Mar-17 22:23:25

Or can she work that one day and you use annual or unpaid compassionate leave to be with DD that day? Or a flexible working request to work a 4 day week for a period?

HelenDenver Mon 06-Mar-17 22:24:38

How long does she have to go back for to not repay the money?

TittyGolightly Mon 06-Mar-17 22:27:08

Parental leave only covers up to age 5but could work?

PunjanaTea Mon 06-Mar-17 22:28:58

If she's NHS is she in a union? They should be able to advise.

TittyGolightly Mon 06-Mar-17 22:30:05

And it's 4 weeks per year.

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