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Can employer change maternity pay package without telling you?

(12 Posts)
america Thu 18-Sep-08 14:25:45

I had a baby in April 07 and got 12 weeks full pay and then SMP for upto 9 months. Now I'm pregnant with my second one, and the same employer has just given me maternity guide (it says effective April 2007) which now states only the legal minimum, i.e. 6 weeks 90% of salary + SMP for upto 9 months.

Can they do that?

smittenkitten Thu 18-Sep-08 14:31:37

depends on whether the occupational mat pay was contractual or not - what did it say in the policy or handbook? If it said it was contractual then they would have had to consult about changing it (though might have done this with a union), but if they said it was discretionary or subject to change, then there's not much you can do I'm afraid.

america Thu 18-Sep-08 14:41:00

It said:

..."This is not a statutory right, but an additional benefit paid by the company to longer service Associates."

I guess this means that we are just another victime of the credit crunch...

Botbot Thu 18-Sep-08 14:52:37

Something similar happened to me. Just around the time I got pregnant with dd, my company underwent a management buyout. We were not given new contracts, but were instead sent letters that informed us of the change of the company’s name, and stated that all the terms and conditions of our previous contracts were to remain the same.

When I came to announce my pregnancy, I was told the company’s maternity policy had changed from a very generous one to basic SMP. I refused to accept this, as I hadn’t signed a new contract, and I assumed that maternity policy would come under the terms and conditions mentioned in the letter they’d sent me. It all went quiet for a few weeks, then I was told that ‘as I was a highly valued member of staff’ they would ‘make an exception just this once’ and give me the old maternity policy. I was told to keep it completely confidential.

I’m now thinking of trying for another baby, and am wondering what I should do this time round. Surely, as I still haven’t signed a new contract, they’ll be obliged to give me the old maternity policy again? It actually has a bearing on whether or not we decide to have a second child – life will be extremely hard on SMP only, and we haven’t been able to save much money since I’ve been back at work - just about getting by with both of us working full time and dd in nursery, mortgage has gone up considerably etc.

It never occurred to me to check whether the old maternity policy was contractual or discretionary. The current one says ‘subject to change’, but the old one (from the old company before the management buyout) might not have done - annoyingly, I haven’t kept a copy. I’m not sure whether to make a nuisance of myself for a second time to try to get the old policy, or try to manage on SMP. Or just give up the idea of having another child sad.

america Thu 18-Sep-08 15:03:04

LOL, I've just been told that "the enhanced policy will exceptionally apply in your situation". Problem solved. Thanks for your quick replies!

mumof2222222222222222boys Thu 18-Sep-08 15:05:28

My company is about to do something similar...I am the lawyer so I'd better look at it!

witchandchips Thu 18-Sep-08 15:17:59

most companies measure length of service from the time that you come back from maternity leave. Thus you need to be back from maternity leave for 3/6/12 months before you get pregnant again to qualify for the enhanced package. hth

flowerybeanbag Thu 18-Sep-08 15:32:50

Have to disagree there witchandchips, 'length of service' has to include maternity leave.

If a company puts a clause into the terms and conditions of it's maternity policy saying that receiving enhanced maternity pay depends on having been back at work for a certain period of time, I suppose they could do that, although I've never come across it myself I have to say.

But if a maternity policy just says you must have 'xxx years' service' to qualify for something, service on maternity leave must count.

In terms of changing maternity policy more generally, I would say that just because something isn't spelled out as 'contractual' doesn't necessarily mean it isn't. Which I think america's employers seem to have just realised!

Something can be discretionary, if it says so, and if in practice it isn't just paid to everyone. But if an employer has an enhanced package that they pay to everyone automatically, or to everyone with x years' service automatically, they can't just take it away without consultation as I would say the argument would be that it has then become part of the terms and conditions of employment.

Having said that, performing a consultation exercise for reducing maternity benefits wouldn't exactly be tricky, and assuming there was a business reason for the change, there's not an awful lot anyone could do about it anyway.

In practice as an employer you'd probably change it for pregnancies going forward and make exceptions for people going off for second/third babies as america's employer is doing, and botbot's has done previously.

Botbot it would definitely be worth making fuss a second time. You may not get what you want but it's definitely worth a go if you get pregnant again. The way they phrased it last time 'exception' and all that, rather than confirming that the old policy still applied to you, sounds as though they might not budge again though.

witchandchips Thu 18-Sep-08 15:36:58

oh okay i was just extrapolating from what happens at the university where i work. smile

flowerybeanbag Thu 18-Sep-08 15:37:28

Botbot Thu 18-Sep-08 16:11:23

Yes, I'm presuming they did it because they had to rather than because I'm such a special employee! grin

Actually, one of my workmates (also an MNer, if you're looking at this wink) is pregnant with her second child (the first one was born before the buyout and so she got the good package) and I'm waiting to see what happens when she asks. Will be quite interesting to find out.

flowerybeanbag Thu 18-Sep-08 16:17:44

I'm sure you are v special botbot gringrin

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