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I’m currently on maternity leave. My company give 52 weeks of maternity leave at 90% which is such a good deal. I also get my accrued holiday. I did have a few words with my managers when they said I wouldn’t be able to take this, and they ‘agreed’ to let me have the leave paid. Until recently, there has been no official HR department. Our contracts were drawn up by management. I’m aware that an HR company has been employed to look at and rewrite our contracts. The new contract outlines the statutory maternity leave and follows with – The company will pays six months maternity leave at 90%. They also say the leave may be longer but that will be at the discretion of management. This is obviously a huge reduction and I’m not happy to sign the contract which changes the terms of employment, especially when I’m on maternity leave at the moment. They have also backdated the contract to a date in 2015. Will I be forced to accept these new maternity leave terms?
An employee’s terms of employment are bound to change in a number of ways during the course of their employment. These can often be positive for the employee, for instance, annual pay increases and promotion of employees are likely to constitute changes to the terms of the contract.
However, as a basic rule, the contract may only be amended if the contract itself enables a change in terms or alternatively the parties to the contact mutually agree to the change in terms.
When considering whether the contract itself enables the employer to alter the term, it is necessary to carefully examine the contract as advice in each case falls on its own facts. In this instance, the clause which governs additional contractual maternity leave may expressly enable the employer to alter the amount of time and pay given on maternity leave. There may also be an employee’s handbook which has the potential to contain these powers and this would need to be considered. We would also need to know if the maternity terms were borne out of a trade union agreement as this would also have some bearing upon any advice provided.
You have the option to refuse to the change, but please note, one option available to your employer if you do not agree to this amendment to your contractual terms is that they could give you notice to terminate your employment and offer you new employment on revised terms. Whilst this is a risk to your employer if the process is not undertaken correctly, handing you a possible unfair dismissal claim, you also run some risk as the Tribunal may consider that by you not accepting the ‘new’ employment, you have not sought to mitigate your loss of losing your job.
This response does not constitute legal advice but general guidance for queries of this general nature.