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employer wants me to sign a new contract - includes reduced maternity pay

(14 Posts)
Ginni Wed 27-Aug-08 00:14:32

Lots of restructuring going on at the moment as well as lots of redundancies. My employer has asked me to sign a new contract, giving the reason that this is a better offer with a list of perks such as gym membership, private healthcare etc, none of which appeal to me as it's actually a worse contract than my current one, signing it would mean I lose my current benefits.

My main issue is that under the new contract, my maternity pay would go from 3 months full pay then three months half pay, 6 months no pay, to 6 weeks at 90% and then SMP, as well as my annual leave and sick leave entitlements being reduced. They have asked me to return a signed copy within one month. They are asking this of all employee's, not just me.

I am due to begin maternity leave in Jan, and to take 1 month annual leave from Dec (but haven't informed HR of this in writing). Obviously I don't want to sign this new contract as I want my current maternity arrangement. Could anyone advise me on the best way to ensure that I keep my current contractural benefits?

Can I refuse to sign it/ can they in any way insist that I sign it? If I don't sign it, and don't respond in any way to their request, is there any way they could construe this as being acceptance of the new contract, without a signature?

Thank you so much for your help!

Ginni Wed 27-Aug-08 00:58:01

btw I should add that my current contract is one from a smaller company who merged with this now much bigger one around 3 years ago. Does this change the situation eg TUPE protection etc?

NoBiggy Wed 27-Aug-08 01:04:20

Don't know but bump it tomorrow daytime.

Thieving buggers!

BetsyBoop Wed 27-Aug-08 10:37:00

I'm sure Flowerybeanbag will be along shortly to offer her expert advice.

In the meant time this might help or try the ACAS helpline

tokentotty Wed 27-Aug-08 10:39:03

I have a feeling that if you can show you would be considerably worse off under the new contract then something can be done to change it. Definitely follow this up though as it doesn't sound right at all.

BetsyBoop Wed 27-Aug-08 10:39:56

this is also a good guide on TUPE rights

elkiedee Wed 27-Aug-08 10:42:05

How do your colleagues feel about it? Even if they're not pregnant or planning to be at some point losing out on leave and sick pay for "benefits" they might not want doesn't seem much of a gain for any of you.

beanieb Wed 27-Aug-08 10:45:38

HAs your employer only asked you, or is everyone having a change in contract?

Ginni Wed 27-Aug-08 11:17:16

Employer has brough out these new terms & conditions and contracts for all staff. I think for the staff on contracts originally from company A these new T&C may be make them better off, but certainly not for employees from company B prior to merger with A, such as me. There are only a small handful of us though, probably about 20 or so, and only about 3 of whom are women who may want to have children over the next few years. I've spoken to my boss about it and she's not planning on signing as she's planning a baby.

squiffy Wed 27-Aug-08 13:55:06

The merger happened too long ago for you to be protected under TUPE, even though this has come about from a need to merge the contracts of the various companies - this is why things like contract changes happen ages after the event, precisely to avoid TUPE protection.

Generally significant changes of contract need to be agreed to by 'the workforce', if people are to be forced to adopt them. So your position will depend upon how they were introduced - did they seek employee views and representaion? If they did, then you have a weaker case, although you might be protected by sex discrimination law (if for example vast majority of staff are male and the biggest clawback has been maternity rights).

Not signing the contract will not help you I'm afraid. If you continue to turn up etc you will be deemed to have accepted the new terms by way of your actions. You will need to set out a letter to HR explaining that the new terms seem to be unfairly prejudcing you and other females of child-bearing age in the organisation and therefore you are reluctant to accept the new terms. Ask them to clarify the plans they have to ensure that pregnant women are not unfairly disadvantaged by these changes. Be nice and polite about it and see what they come back with.

strawberrycornetto Wed 27-Aug-08 14:16:35

Hello. I don't quite agree with squiffy on the timing point. A change to a contract that happens due to a tupe transfer is covered by the legislation however long after the transfer it happens. There is case law about a change more than 3 years after a transfer. The trick though is to be able to demostrate the change is for a reason related to the transfer and not for other reasons and this does get harder as time goes on.

They cannot force you to accept new terms but could ultimately dismiss you on notice and offer you the new contract as alternative employment. Squiffy is right that you need to be careful not to be deemed to accept the new terms.

It is worth you speaking to ACAS as your position will depend on quite a few things including how many people are affected. Your employer will have to follow procedures though.

Ginni Thu 28-Aug-08 17:27:40

My company are saying the reason for the change in contract is to harmonise the t&c currently in place across the company and to create a competitive benefits package. I don't know how i'd demonstrate the change is for a reason related to the transfer with this as their reason (unless anyone has any ideas?) so would imagine arguing against the change under tupe is out of the question?

I have asked around and so far only myself and my line manager seem to have received this new contract (both of us now pregnant, and the company have known unofficially for a while I'm pregnant and she has been trying). They have publicised that this new contract will be rolled out to all staff eventually, but I do feel potentially discriminated against in that we have received the new contract before other staff. I could have had my maternity payment schedule agreed with the company if they had sent the new contract out to me at a later date.

I've now handed in my MatB1 form with letter requesting specifically 12 weeks full pay 12 weeks half pay and asking for schedule of maternity payments asap. Do you think I still need to put something in writing to HR to say I don't accept the new contract? Or should I wait for their response to my maternity schedule request? I was thinking I'd be able to argue that my request for maternity payments as per my current contract, sent to them before the deadline they gave me to sign the new contract, is a strong indication that I do not agree to the new terms and conditions?

Am I right in thinking it's in my favour that they have not given me a notice period for a definite contract change (I have evidence they when they previously changed contracts for other staff they wrote them a letter informing that this change would take place, and on what date and did not seek a signature for this change, as they are doing in this case). So if they turned round and said that i'd been moved onto the new contract by default as i'd not put forward any objection in writing, then can I argue that they didn't give me clear and sufficient notice for this change?

squiffy Thu 28-Aug-08 18:52:15

Oh goody, they are fucking up making things much easier for you.

They can't just introduce the change here and there for different people at their own whim. They must at least be consistent by branch or by whole department! That's the key thing here, because any reasonable person (ie the Employment Tribunal) would think that perhaps there is an element of discrim because you were selected ahead of others and Gosh! What a co-incidence! You're both PG. Once the ET has established discrim might be involved then the company has to prove that it wasn't discrim. And from the bare facts of the case (obv you would need to get proper legal advice) I think they would be a bit stuffed.

Ok. I think you should write a letter and here's what I suggest you write - hopefully some HR ladies will come along soon to advise too...

"I have received the new contract on * and wanted to express my concerns regaridng the change in conditions.

I have concerns on three fronts:-

1) The new terms are not being rolled out consistently and this is potentially unfair on everybody: I am concerned also because these policies will have a direct and substantial detrimental effect on me which means that I will receive unfair treatment relative to people in other departments. I feel that I have perhaps been targetted in this respect as a direct result of my pregnancy, and am hopign that you can reassure me that in this regard, and that you will be able to offer the old terms and conditions for myself, and for other women who might otherwise have been unfairly treated.
2) I feel that in general the new terms are less beneficial to female workers such as myself and I am upset that staff do not appear to have had their views considered. Can you please let me know the process by which the changes were determined and the level of involvement of employees and their representatives in such a process
3) I am somewhat confused that the preocedures regarding changes in contracts are not being applied consistently - sometimes people are asked for written confirmation of acceptance, sometimes not. This is all very confusing and I would appreciate details of the company's formal policies & procedures with regard to contract change procedures"
Then either say "I look forward to your comments in due course so that I can then confirm whether or not I am happy to accept the new terms and/or any proposals you have"

or say (if you are feeling really fierce)
"I would like to confirm that I will be unabel to accept the new terms and conditions until I am furnished with more information with respect to the above, and of course I will have consider the possibility of raising a formal grievance with regard to my specific position in all of this and the money that I will lose. I am sure we can however avoid this and I look forward to your comments in due course."

That'll upset 'em and will get them thinking you are lining the legal boys up for a fight. If it is a genuine mess up and nothing sinister they will probably get scared and back down v quickly; if it is a bit more sinister and they know what they are doing they will recognise that you also know what you are doing and will hopefully back down because of that.

BUT, wait and see what others suggest....

apologies for spellign by the way - am v busy at the mo.

Oh and last thing - if you are using work PC for mumsnet ot discuss this you will need to stop and start logging in form home instead. Just to be on safe side.

strawberrycornetto Thu 28-Aug-08 22:52:02

Completely agree with everything Squiffy has suggested. What complete idiots to try that with two pregnant employees. A tribunal would hate it and I can't see they could possibly show it wasn't discriminatory.

Despite being involved in this area for years, I am still shocked at how badly employers treat pregnant women. angry

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