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I’m currently on maternity leave and am due back next month. I have two months’ worth of leave to use up bringing me to April. I still have to work 18 days before I can either go on my career break or apply for voluntary redundancy. My problem is I have no one to take care of baby whilst I’m working my 18 days and I can’t afford to leave her in a nursery and wouldn’t want to! I’ve been feeling really low as I can’t leave her. What do I do? I know I’ll have to pay back occupational maternity pay, but that’s a lot of money too. I was advised I can go off sick, but will that get in the way of the redundancy?
I note from your question that you are currently on maternity leave and are due to return to work in April after a period of annual leave. I further note that when you return to work after your leave you have 18 days before you can either go on a career break or apply for voluntary redundancy but that you do not wish to leave your daughter in nursery.
In the first instance I would suggest that you discuss the matter with your employer as it may be that some agreement can be reached that is beneficial to both parties. Given that you state that a career break and/or voluntary redundancy is in the pipeline, it may be that your employer is happy for you to apply immediately.
If your employer is not prepared to allow you to apply for a career break/voluntary redundancy immediately, you could apply for unpaid parental leave to look after her. Parental leave is available to you if you have parental responsibility for a child and you have been continually employed for over one year. Overall you are allowed up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave, up to her 18th birthday.
You should check whether your employer has implemented its own parental leave scheme. If it hasn’t, the default statutory scheme will apply to you. Under this default scheme you must give your employer a minimum of 21 days’ notice of your attention to take unpaid leave and you must state your intended start and end date. You also must give your employer evidence of your entitlement to take parental leave. Under the default scheme you cannot take more than four weeks’ leave in respect of any individual child during any particular year and leave must be taken in blocks of a week. Parental leave is unpaid. If you apply for parental leave, this can’t be postponed by your employer unless they have a ‘significant reason’ i.e. it would cause significant disruption to the business.
You also state that another option is for you to go off work sick. If you are not well enough to attend work, you should inform your employer of your inability to attend work in accordance with its sickness absence reporting procedures. This is important as it may also affect payment of statutory sick pay (SSP) to you. During any absence on account of sickness you may be entitled to SSP (if you meet the qualifying requirements) or you may be entitled to Company sick pay, depending on your terms and conditions of employment.
You should still be included in any redundancy process if you are taking a period of parental leave or if you are off work sick, but payment of SSP only during a period of sickness absence may have an impact on the amount of any subsequent redundancy payment. I would therefore advise you to speak to your employer about your concerns regarding returning to work in the first instance to see if you can agree on a way forward.
Should you require further clarification on the above points then please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 975 3823.
*Helen Frankland assisted in answering this question.