With UK coronavirus cases reportedly on the increase in some areas, working parents across...read more
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at a UK university. My fellowship is financed by the European Community and paid directly by the university (my contract is with the university). My contract should have ended in the summer, but I am now in maternity leave. The university has offered me to pay contractual maternity pay until the end of my contract and then statutory maternity pay until the end of my maternity leave. Indeed they have sent me a redundancy notice, justifying this due to the fact that the funding has come to an end. The European Community had agreed to suspend the fellowship for the period of the maternity leave so my fellowship will be resumed for the remaining period after the leave. Indeed the university will reissue an employment contract for the remaining months of my fellowship. May I ask you if the university position and policy is correct? Also, they told me that even if they wish, they are not allowed to pay me contractual maternity pay for the standard period. Is this true?
From the scenario described I am wondering if the contract was for a fixed term because of funding, as you say your contract was due to end in the summer, or if it was open ended until funding ceased? However, it appears your maternity leave commenced some time before your end date.
Maternity pay is a strange exception to normal remuneration as, even if a contract comes to an end whether fixed term or through redundancy, the right to statutory maternity pay continues. The obligation to pay maternity pay does not pass from the employer to the state in the event the contract comes to an end.
This will be why the university has agreed to pay the contractual (enhanced rate) until the termination date yet the statutory obligation continues beyond until the full benefit is exhausted.
The real question here is whether the contract should have been terminated at all and that can be more complicated. We would need to know the contractual terms. However, there may be a case for appeal against redundancy on the basis that the funding has not come to an end. Even if the contract was for a fixed term there is now an argument that this should be extended as further funding is now available.
As part of any redundancy programme there will be a right of appeal and you should take this opportunity to put that case. Indeed you indicate that the university is prepared to re-issue a contract for the remainder of the fellowship on your return, indicating that there is no reason to terminate in the first place.
I would argue that there is continuity of service and the contract should not be terminated and hence you should be entitled to the contractual maternity pay until that ceases and the statutory commences.