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pregnancy planning/maternity leave clawback

(17 Posts)
elizabs Mon 05-Jan-15 15:19:32

Hi all,

I'm hoping to start trying for a baby number 1 in summer this year, and am also considering a change in job. This was partly motivated by believing that my work's maternity policy was rather rubbish (8 weeks full pay, 16 weeks half pay - all subject to clawback if not returning for 3 months) however looking around it seems that I would actually be quite fortunate. I'm also noticing that most companies do not advertise their enhanced maternity conditions online or in job adverts and that it's part of the employee handbook when you start so I'd be accepting something new without necessarily knowing if it was better or worse (salary jump wouldn't likely be huge), especially as it isn't something one can ask at interview!
Additionally, if there was a qualifying period of say, 6 months or a year for enhanced benefits in a new role, added to my current notice period at this job before I started, that would put operation baby back by quite a while.

My main issue with current policy is the clawback - I am lucky in that I wouldn't necessarily have to go back for a few years and would ideally not plan to return. Childcare is especially expensive near us and my commute extortionate so it wouldn't make a lot of financial sense to go back when my husband's salary would be fine for a few years. Does anyone have any idea of how likely a company is to pursue clawing back the full amount if I don't return (I work for a large organisation, not a small business or charity before I sound like a total cow!)? And as my notice period is 3 months, could I in theory hand my notice in first day back and count that period as the 3 months needed to prevent clawback, or would I have to work the 3 months before handing my notice in, making it 6 months?

Also, I know that many people add a few weeks accrued annual leave to the end of their mat leave - could I start this leave on my first 'official' day back, also handing in my notice that day, reducing the 3 month clawback preventing period to two months (3 months minus 5 weeks annual leave)?!

Thank in advance for any advice on this! x

alovelycuppatea Mon 05-Jan-15 15:30:11

Most companies have a minimum period before you are eligible for occupational mat pay. Six months at my place. 3 month clawback is reasonable I think. Could you not extend your leave with a career break at the end of your mat leave? My work allows this.

elizabs Mon 05-Jan-15 15:45:08

I hadn't considered that - thanks I will see what I can find out. I think though, that I would want a good few years off. And if I had to bite the bullet and go back for just 3 months in order to not have to pay back thousands of pounds that I might have to do that. I do wonder if I was upfront with HR about only planning to return for the 3 months to avoid clawback that they might let me off it in order to keep things simple and retain whoever my replacement might be rather than get rid and recruit a permanent replacement when I quit after 3 months. Hmm.

TheJiminyConjecture Mon 05-Jan-15 15:53:38

I can't imagine the company would just ignore the claw back clause. From your point of view, you don't want to pay back thousands of pounds. Why should they then pay you that amount for nothing?

It is worth checking how much you have to pay back. At my work we can opt out of the enhanced pay and simply receive statutory maternity pay if we are not sure about coming back. Or if you take the enhanced and then leave it's only the enhanced pay that is owed. Also three months notice counts towards the claw back period but that may be work place specific.

MrsCK Mon 05-Jan-15 15:55:46

Where I work you can opt for the enhanced maternity options or not. If you opt for the enhanced option then you have to return for 3 months. If you don't opt for it you get statutory maternity pay for the whole 52 weeks. If you then decide to return the enhanced lump sum is given to you as a lump sum but you're not bound by anything to return. from what I understand this is pretty standard for most companies.

I would also suggest that post interview and prior to accepting a job you request their policies to peruse. you could be as vague as asking for the policies that may affect you in the future at the company, sickness, grievance, maternity etc. but I would ask for this on offer of a job prior to accepting.

PotteringAlong Mon 05-Jan-15 16:01:26

I think your companies maternity pay is not that rubbish!

WhyOWhyWouldYou Mon 05-Jan-15 16:50:43

Your current companys enhanced mat pay is actually very generous and the 3month claw back is pretty standard for any company offering enhanced pay. Ultimately the enhanced pay is offered as a way of retaining employees, so of course they are going to claw it back if you don't return.

You do realise though that the clawback can only legally relate to the enhanced payments and not the statutory 90% for 6week then the £140ish pw from week 7-39?

I don't really understand why you feel you should get enhanced pay but not return to work afterwards. I became a sahm after DS, so I just didnt bother claiming the enhanced pay offered by my employer and just took the SMP.

Jaffakake Mon 05-Jan-15 18:06:21

Id be very surprised for you to find better mat pay anywhere else. From friends the only one better than mine (local govt. & as you describe) is the nhs.

The only occasion where I know if anyone getting away with not paying it back was 2 ex colleagues at the same, badly run, smallish business where they probably had grounds for unfair dismissal anyway!

At my place you can decide not to take the extra money, but if you go back get it as a lump sum then. I don't see why an employer would ever want to pay you more for no benefit to them in the long run.

One of my neighbours went back and pretty much handed her notice in immediately. Basically you just need to figure it out based on your specific circumstances nearer the time.

You're always better being less upfront with all of this stuff, for example, what would happen if your partner was made redundant during the last month of your paid maternity leave? Also, you may change your mind & decide you want to go back to work, or have a really hard baby & decide work is a rest worth shelling out for - it does happen! It's always better to make sure you, not your employer, is in the strongest position.

Alisvolatpropiis Mon 05-Jan-15 18:44:20

Your company has a pretty good maternity package.

You would be mad to tell them that. It would just piss them off. Just leave after the 3 months, they won't waive the clause especially for you.

SophieBarringtonWard Mon 05-Jan-15 18:47:12

I don't get why if you can afford to be a SAHM, you can't afford to manage with the enhanced pay and thus avoid the clawback.

Artistic Mon 05-Jan-15 18:53:05

Your company policy is fabulous! After 14 years on my job am still getting only statutory pay!

In your shoes I would keep quiet now, take the money, return for 3 months - and in that time try to negotiate terms so that the period is reduced or set off against accrued leave or if your replacement joins sooner etc.

redcaryellowcar Mon 05-Jan-15 20:09:06

I used to work for a medium sized business (350 ish employees) and had a reasonable enhanced maternity package, I didn't go back and didn't have to repay it, but didn't know that until I had handed my notice in and tbh I think they were keen for me not to go back as they knew my previous flexibility for evening meetings and the ability to stay on if meetings overran would be non existent as I have a dh who they knew worked Long hours with a long commute and I would need to be the one taking and dropping off at nursery. They kept on my maternity cover who was and I'm sure still is great but also has no family ties (yet) so can give the job the120% it demands.

elizabs Tue 06-Jan-15 10:17:18

Thanks everyone, it's reassuring to know I probably won't find a better maternity policy by changing jobs. My previous job offered 6 months full pay 6 months half pay - why did I ever leave?! I'll stay put, keep the enhanced pay to one side just in case and try to negotiate on it and return towards the end of mat leave.

skitter Tue 06-Jan-15 11:44:47

At my old workplace there was a clawback for part of the enhanced maternity leave (we got 12 weeks full pay, 6 weeks half pay) but you could offset that against any annual leave you had accrued. I took 12 months maternity leave and therefore accrued my full holiday entitlement for that year, and had a week carried over from the year before. This meant that in reality they actually owed me a small amount of money when I resigned at the end of maternity leave. I was on a one month notice period and told them I wasn't returning a month before my leave was ending (after they'd rejected my request to reduce to three days a week). I was worried I'd have to pay back thousands but it actually worked out in my favour. You may find that you don't end up repaying quite as much as you expect if you do have some holiday days owing at the end of your leave.

elizabs Tue 06-Jan-15 12:00:11

Thanks skitter, that's really good to know.

If a company was told at the end of Mat leave "I'll come back but only for 3 months to avoid the clawback, hand my notice in on the first day and take all my accrued holiday in that time" surely they would prefer to write off the money and get shut of the employee for good and rather than three months of an employee dicking around half-arsed plus yet another recruitment process for a replacement. That's the hope anyway!

FishWithABicycle Tue 06-Jan-15 12:11:16

An employer doesn't have to grant a request for annual leave to be taken during the 3 months notice period - they can require you to actually come into the office and work for those three months, and then can pay you your accrued Annual Leave at the end.

Your existing package is pretty generous, there are loads of places that only offer statutory minimum, and it is perfectly reasonable and appropriate to have a claw-back clause if you don't return.

If you are financially in the position to be able to take a career break of a number of years then I think you shouldn't be trying to find a way to get more than the statutory minimum anyway. Companies sometimes do offer enhanced maternity packages because they want to retain their talented employees. If you take advantage of that generosity to trick them into paying you the extra without retaining you, then it's detrimental to the company and detrimental to the rest of the female workforce most of whom aren't in a position to take several years off but who will all be tarred with the same brush when the company feels aggrieved by your behaviour.

Alisvolatpropiis Tue 06-Jan-15 21:36:04

It will be a case of hope (yours) over experience (your employers).

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