Can my employer change the maternity scheme while I am on maternity leave?

I’m currently on maternity leave and have been contacted by my company to sign a new contract. None of the core terms and conditions have changed except they are changing the maternity policy from 52 weeks at 90% pay to six months at 90%. When I announced I was pregnant there were no problems, except when I asked for my accrued holiday as well as the 52 weeks of leave. After a few tense conversations my boss ‘agreed’ to give me the holiday I would have accrued. My contract has the ’52 weeks at 90% pay’ written into it and doesn’t say anything about variable or flexible terms. To my knowledge this isn’t in the handbook either. Only one woman before me has taken maternity before (she took it three times, my understanding is she took them in quite quick succession). They want me to sign the contract quite soon, by the end of the month and I don’t really want to because they are taking away six months of the maternity leave. I also don’t know what it would mean for this maternity leave if I signed the new contract now. I’m five months in already and have planned to take a full year off with my baby. Do I have to sign the contract or can they force me to? Can they make these changes to the contract?

You should go back to the business and ask for some more information on this. I would ask why have they decided to change the contracts to six months enhanced maternity pay from 12 months, and when are they suggesting to make the change effective from? Are they proposing to make this change effective imminently and if so are they saying you won’t get the rest of this maternity period paid other than the next month?

Legally there isn’t anything on this other than basic statutory maternity leave must be paid and enhanced pay is only legally binding if it is part of the contract, but a change could be seen as unreasonable without any consultation. There do not appear to be any stipulations about how much notice the employer needs to give if they want to change this though, unless this is written into the maternity pay policy.

If you agree to the change by signing the contract then the notice period of when the change will be enforced from should be agreed between you and your employer.

I would also ask what happens if you don’t want to accept it – what will be the next steps – if they seek to enforce the change? It could be breach of contract/ maternity discrimination/  or you could submit a grievance if they do so.

There may be clause to say if you don’t sign it in xx amount of time then it will be taken as you agreeing with the change of policy. I would go back to them and voice your concerns and get some further information.

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