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Contracts and maternity leave

(8 Posts)
sashaboo Tue 22-Apr-03 09:15:21

I'm returning to work in September following my maternity leave. I am on a contract until the end of the year but have a feeling the company will want to extend it.

The thing is I hope to be pregnant when I return but I wonder what the situation is regarding maternity leave. I have looked through the company policy and seen that they won't pay maternity leave beyond the end of the contract but I worry that I won't have my contract extended if they know I am pregnant.

Has anyone else been in this position? Of course, this is all a bit forward thinking but fore-warned...

BTW, I like my boss and don't want to 'rip him off' but I feel the company takes advantage of people (especially women) using short-term contracts.

Meanmum Tue 22-Apr-03 09:31:40

The laws have changed in terms of contracts. If you are employed directly by the company you work for and paid by them then you are on a fixed term contract. If you are employed by a third party (agency etc) then you are classified as a contractor.

Fixed Term workers are now entitled to receive benefits identical to those of a permanent employee. The laws change on 1 October last year. This means your company must treat you in the same manner as their permanent employees and if a permanent employee enjoys different rights in terms of maternity pay and time off etc then you are also entitled to this.

Terminating a fixed term contract is not impossible but also more difficult now and I would advise any company to strongly think about the decision they are taking if they do that knowing that the employee is pregnant. Pregnant women are viewed, by the employment tribunal, in high regard and most companies will tend not to take any action against a pregnant woman rather than risk a discrimination case in the courts.

MrsS Tue 22-Apr-03 09:51:12

Sashaboo - I agree with meanmum that you are probably fairly well protected already. Just another thought though, why don't you speak to your boss before September saying that you would really like to know what their plans are and if they are likely to extend your contract or not.

Once he has confirmed that they probably will extend, they would find it much more difficult to change their minds if you did indeed go back and were already pregnant.

Might also be worth making notes of any tel conversations or emails that you exchagne with the co. Good luck

sashaboo Tue 22-Apr-03 09:56:04

Thanks for that.

The thing is, they would be foolish to extend my contract if they know I am pregnant but it wouldn't be an issue if I was there on a permanent basis and that's what annoys me. I can't blame them on the one hand as they wouldn't offer a job to a 7 month pregnant woman but it is really annoying.

Of course, it's difficult to go down the whole tribunal route to prove that if I wasn't pregnant they would offer me another contract as there are several other people in my section who could do my job and whose contracts all expire at the same time.

morocco Tue 22-Apr-03 12:42:01

hi sashaboo
just what I was wondering as well! I hate fixed term contracts - I had to time ds down to the month more or less to get the medical insurance but also get the maternity leave fitted in before the contract expired and now I'm planning no2! but don't tell anyone.
I've thought about it a lot and perhaps it depends on your co but I thought I would be better protected if I told them I was pregnant than if I tried to hide it because then if they didn't renew they would have to justify why not and it would be obvious that it was because of my pregnancy.
My job would have to be filled by someone so there would be no way of arguing that the post was no longer required either - even if that was the case why sack me not someone else?
Another thought though - if you have been on unpaid maternity leave - does this count as the time at work that you need to work to qualify for maternity leave? for my co you need one year continuous service before mat leave starts.
Hope someone out there knows the answers to these questions ...
Do you have any legal people you can talk to - eg your house or car insurance policy might include legal advice?
Do let me know if you find anything out.

sashaboo Tue 22-Apr-03 17:22:43

hey morocco - interesting to hear someone else is in the same boat.

I do know that my unpaid maternity leave counts as continuous service so I wouldn't have to go back to square one as it were.

It's difficult to explain my situation without going into too much detail (so I won't!) but my job doesn't have to exist beyond Christmas (that makes me sound like an elf!) but my boss might be tempted to eek it out if I'm not 6 months pregnant at the time. Then I would be able to get SMP which is what I'm after as I probably wouldn't be going back after number 2.

It's difficult, it makes me feel very money grabbing but I've worked hard to get to the level I'm at and I like to keep my options open with regards to returning to work.

Your advice about ringing the insurance people has made me think about contacting the unions and I like MrsS's idea about asking about the contract before I return.

JulieF Sun 27-Apr-03 14:03:28

You don't have to prove that if you were not pregnant your contract would not be renewed. In a tribunal it is up to your employer to prove that your pregnancy is not the reason you were chosen to have your contract terminated.

Of course if your job will genuinly not exist any longer then there is little a tribunal can do but if it is a case of a choice between you or someone else then you will be in a very string posistion. There is even a case where a woman returning from maternity leave woon unfair dismissal because even though her job disapeared in reorganisation it was found that had she not gone on leave the reorganisation wouldn't have happened.

miriamw Sun 27-Apr-03 15:44:13

Sashaboo,

If your aim is to get SMP, then have you looked at maternity allowance - the pay out isn't quite as good (ie you don't get the 90% for 6 weeks), but you do get £100 per week for 26 weeks, and the requirements aren't that strenuous - you have to have earned NICs for 13 weeks out of the 66 weeks before your due date - you can choose any 13.

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