I am on maternity leave, but just prior to going on maternity leave there was a restructure within our department where my post changed and was downgraded in salary. My employer has a payment protection policy in place so that my pay remains the same for 12 months before being reduced. It is my belief that the payment protection should not kick in until I am back from maternity leave as I would not feel the full 12 months benefit of full pay protection – compared to a man in the same situation as I am on maternity pay. Am I correct in thinking this as my employer is refusing to do this and wants to commence my payment protection from now -the first day of my maternity leave? Is payment protection in a restructure situation part of your contractual right? I know that ladies who receive essential car user payments also receive these whilst on maternity leave – but this is a benefit. My employer is saying that it is not about the money but the time factor – for me it is both and I do feel the sensible and reasonable thing to do would be to suspend the 12-month payment protection so that it kicks in on my return from maternity leave.
As you have suggested, you need to argue that implementing the Pay Protection Policy now, (ie whilst you are on maternity leave), as opposed to implementing it when you return from maternity leave, amounts to indirect sex discrimination.
The Sex Discrimination Act seeks to prevent employers from applying ostensibly neutral practices which have the effect of creating an unjustified disadvantage for women. This is know as ‘indirect’ sex discrimination. Implementing the Pay Protection Policy immediately, (rather than waiting until you return from maternity leave), indirectly discriminates against you, given that the pay protection scheme is not a benefit to you until you return from maternity leave and receive your usual salary, as opposed to maternity pay. This therefore has a discriminatory effect on women.
I recommend that you have a discussion with your employer pointing out the above. If your employer still refuses to postpone the commencement of the Payment Protection Policy in relation to you, I recommend that you lodge a formal grievance in respect of the same, stating that this amounts to sex discrimination, for the reasons set out above.
If this matter is not resolved, you would have a potential claim for sex discrimination.