I work for the NHS. I was employed (in early pregnancy) on a fixed-term contract that has recently been made permanent. I notified HR in writing of my pregnancy within the correct time frame (more than 15 weeks before my due date). I had no further correspondence from them, other than to confirm they had received my application for SMP/OMP. Finally, now in the 35th week of pregnancy, three days before I am due to start maternity leave/pay, I am informed in writing that I don’t qualify for either OMP or SMP and must seek maternity allowance from the job centre. This has caused me considerable distress as it will impact significantly on my finances whilst off work. I have read on a government website that the employers are meant to notify me within 28 days of my application. What can I do about this?
I note from your question that you were previously employed by the NHS on a fixed-term contract, which has since been made permanent. I further note that you informed your employer, in writing, of your pregnancy more than 15 weeks before your due date. In terms of communication with your employer, once your employer has received notice of the date you have chosen to start your maternity leave, your employer has 28 days to notify you of the date on which your maternity leave will end, which will be 52 weeks from the start of maternity leave. This notification need not be in writing. It is unclear from your email whether you have received this notification. You employer has, however, recently informed you that you do not qualify for statutory maternity pay. You do not state the reason(s) why your employer believes that you do not qualify for statutory maternity pay (SMP). To qualify you must:
– Earn on average at least £112 a week;
– Give the correct notice to your employer;
– Give proof you’re pregnant;
– Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the ‘qualifying week’ (the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth).
You firstly need to check whether you do, in fact, qualify for SMP. From your question you state that you were employed in early pregnancy. I assume therefore that you were already pregnant when you commenced your employment with the NHS. Accordingly, you may not have been employed for the requisite 26 weeks up to the qualifying week. If you do not have the required length of service (or if you do not meet any of the other qualifying requirements) then you would not qualify for SMP. Alternatively, if you do feel that you meet the qualifying requirements, you should raise this with your employer as a matter of urgency and, if necessary, you should raise a written grievance on the matter. As your employer has stated, if you don’t qualify for SMP, you may still qualify for maternity allowance.
If you would like some further advice or guidance regarding any of the points discussed above then please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.
*Helen Frankland assisted with this answer.