Employer demanded maternity pay back

I worked in my last job for seven years and went on maternity leave in 2016. Prior to maternity leave I worked four days a week due to my son having a serious chronic illness and numerous hospital appointments. I was told that following my maternity leave they would no longer allow flexible working so I put in a written application which was denied.  My son was extremely ill and was spending a lot of time in hospital at this time and my employer became extremely difficult with me. I was signed off work with stress and anxiety as they were worried about my mental health with so much going on. My employer became more difficult and I decided to seek new employment and was able to find a new job. I ensured that I remained employed for 13 weeks following my maternity leave ending as I knew that if I did not I would have to return my contractual maternity pay.  I handed in my resignation so that my last day of employment was a Friday, 13 weeks after my maternity leave ended.  I then received a letter that was full of figures and was very confusing and complicated, but was basically saying that they were reclaiming my maternity pay.  The reason they gave was that I should have put my last day as the Sunday, even though I was not contracted to work weekends, and that I was therefore one weekend short of the 13 weeks. The union have failed to resolve this for me and I have also contacted a solicitor who told me I had a very strong case, but that they were unable to help as it was over three months ago.  I am very upset and disappointed with this as that money was needed for my family over the difficult few months we have had with my son’s health. I also feel that an injustice has been done and that I have been treated unfairly. 

Whether or not your employer is able to reclaim the maternity pay is determined by the contract, i.e. anything said in your Contract of Employment about when notice takes effect and anything contained in a contractual Maternity Policy about maternity pay and when that is repayable. I would not be able to advise about that without sight of those documents.

The solicitor you contacted is correct to say that you would not be able to bring any claims arising out of the failure to offer flexible working if that was more than three months ago. The only exception is if it were not “reasonably practicable” for you to bring a claim, or if it were “just and equitable” to allow you to bring a claim of indirect sex discrimination.

However, if your employer made a deduction from your final wages in respect of the maternity pay, and they did not have the right to do so, you might have a claim for unlawful deduction from wages or for breach of contract. You would have three months from the deduction to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal or six years to pursue breach of contract in the County Court.

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