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I am just completing one year’s maternity leave and planning my return to work. Salaries are reviewed within the business annually in March. I’ve just been informed that I have received the minimum level of increase available within the firm. Previously (across all eight years of working for the business) I have received above average salary increases based on my performance, with last year’s being particularly high. Is it right that I should receive the minimum level just because I am on maternity leave or should they have used my previous performance as the basis for the review?
It is certainly arguable that your pay rise should have been to a level equivalent of the average you had previously received as you should not be disadvantaged if but for your maternity leave you would have received the pay increase. The Equality Act 2010 addresses such a situation by implying a ‘Maternity Equality Clause’ into a contract of employment. The result of this is that if, but for being on maternity leave, a woman’s pay would be subject to an increase, the increase should be applied.
You would have a very good argument to say that, but for you being on maternity leave, your pay would have been subject to a higher raise given the higher raises you were awarded in previous years. Should they not put you in the same position that you would have been ‘but for’ your maternity leave, your employer may fall foul of the Equality Act’s provisions regarding a Maternity Equality Clause and discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity. I would recommend raising the issue with your employer and taking further legal advice as it is a complex legal area. It is important to bear in mind the three-month limitation period in which claims under the Equality Act must be brought.