Entitlement to bonus after being on maternity leave: ask the expert

During 2012 I had 9 months of maternity leave and worked 3 months (although 1 month of this was using up holiday). My manager recently told me I wouldn’t be paid any bonus for 2012. Her reasons were that the bonus was based on performance and as I hadn’t been in the office they couldn’t make a judgement on this. She also mentioned that as I had received a big pay rise earlier I was relatively well paid compared to my peers. I wanted to check whether they were able to withhold a bonus for this reason.

During AML (the period of 26 weeks’ statutory leave which begins on the first day after the end of OML, being the first 26 weeks of your leave), you are entitled to the benefit of all your contractual terms which would have applied to you had you not been absent on maternity leave. However, the rules are slightly different in relation to bonuses. Here, strictly speaking your entitlement will depend on the work to which the bonus relates. For example, if the bonus relates to work you did before you went on maternity leave, (or for work you did after you returned from maternity leave), you would be entitled to this, regardless of the fact that you were absent on maternity leave when the payment was actually due. However, if the bonus relates to work that would have been done during your maternity leave had you not been absent, then you are not entitled to the payment. It will not be discriminatory to reduce an annual bonus on a pro rata basis to take into account the period over which you were absent from work on maternity leave, as I understand was done in relation to your previous period of maternity leave.

Therefore, strictly speaking, you would not be able to claim entitlement to any bonus payments relating to work done over your period of maternity leave APART FROM your two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave (the two weeks following the date you gave birth.)

Because strictly speaking you are not entitled to any bonus payments relating to work done over your period of maternity leave apart from your two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave, whether you can claim entitlement to this will depend on the terms of the bonus scheme. As I have said, it will not be discriminatory to reduce an annual bonus on a pro rata basis to take into account the period over which you were absent from work on maternity leave, but, depending on the rules of the scheme, you would still be entitled to your bonus for the period of time you actually worked.

I would therefore recommend that you request a copy of the bonus policy and any maternity policy. If you are entitled to payment of the bonus in accordance with the policies you should write to your employer requesting payment. If you are entitled to payment under the policies and this is not forthcoming, you may be able to submit a claim to the Employment Tribunal for unlawful deduction from wages and unlawful detriment in relation to the maternity leave period.

Please note that if you wish to bring any claim at the employment tribunal for discrimination / unlawful deduction from wages, you only have 3 months from the date of the discriminatory act to bring a claim.

If you would like any further information, please do not hesitate to contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.





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