Is it legal for my maternity cover to be paid more than me?

I have worked for my current employer for over four years and am now taking my second period of maternity leave. I have now found that the temporary cover is being paid substantially more than me for working one less day that me.  I would welcome your thoughts on where I stand legally on this?  I now feel incredibly undervalued by my company and debating whether I should return.

I understand that you are on maternity leave and your temporary maternity cover is being paid more than you. Under every contract of employment there is an implied duty for employers not to act capriciously or inequitably in relation to pay. This forms part of the wider implied duty for employers not to act in such a way so as to breach the implied term of trust and confidence. Whether your contract has been breached due to the temporary person being paid more will depend on a variety of factors e.g. how much more are they being paid (if it is only a small amount then it will matter less), is the higher pay due to being unable to recruit someone quickly on a lower salary (which would be a valid reason) or to reflect the fact that the job is temporary, is the temporary cover male (which may indicate sex discrimination), are they paid more because they are full time (which would indicate discrimination against part time workers) and so on.

If there are valid and fair reasons for paying the temporary cover more then this will be acceptable. At this stage, you need more information and I would therefore contact your employer asking why the temp is being paid more and asking for your pay to be increased accordingly. If they refuse, then you can look at raising a written grievance and/or submit a sex discrimination questionnaire to find out more about why they have chosen to pay you less. This will give you information to establish whether you have a claim for discrimination and also whether you can resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.

Sarah Calderwood has assisted with this answer.

Comments [14]

  • Badgerinboots says:

    I really need advice please! I have been back off maternity leave since around Oct 2019, whilst on leave a replacement staff member was brought in and was then made permanent after my return to work, I returned part time so we share job roles along with another colleague, however as she is still new I’m finding I’m still assisting and training her on the job most days. It recently came to light that she is on a higher wage than me, not by a huge amount but enough to make a difference to me. Is it enough to raise a grievance?
    I have been at the company almost 4 years and have a lot of experience in the role, I can’t help but feel incredibly undervalued. They did this once already with the first replacement and when I argued they had to match my wage, the first replacement didn’t work out but they’ve obviously done the same again (presumably because they couldn’t hire anyone on the lower wage). Where do I stand??

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, As it says in this article, your next move should be to ask your employer to explain the reason for the difference in salary. Depending on their response, you could consider raising a grievance.

  • Mrs Anonymous says:

    Mine is slightly complicated, I was in the UK but moved to Australia and am still doing my job on the same salary but in dollars. Like £28-32k around the fluctuating exchange rate. I see my job advertised, and it’s 40-45k. Astonished is an understatement!

  • ST says:

    I’m covering around a third of my managers workload whilst she’s on maternity leave.
    I’ve asked for a payment to reflect this at 30% of her salary as she’s not being replaced; am I being reasonable?

  • claire says:

    I have started my maternity leave but prior to this, i was trying to recrruit for my replacement in addition to the day job……but I dont work in HR!
    So…..we had a number of applicants apply but tgey werent up to scratch (according to my.bosses. Tgese people applied based on tthe same hourly rate as myself.
    We then upped it to try and get a better candidate. Turns out a temp has been recruited but ona slightly higher hourly rate.
    Do i have a leg to stand on? I havedone this job for 5 years and this temp has no business experienceor know my bosses. Am i having tge pi§§ Taken out of me?

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm interested in learning more about part-time v. full time. I currently work on a 7/8 of a full-time contract – my request for full time was turned down on financial basis 2 years ago.
    Now, my maternity cover is going to go on a full-time contract. Can my employer do that?

    Editor: What are the reasons behind the full-time contract for your cover? Have you asked for a full-time contract in the last two years and has the business grown? It may be worth using this to ask for a full-time contract when you return.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am currently covering for a colleague on Maternity Leave. Although they have put me onto the same grade as the person I'm covering, I am at the bottom of the pay scale and the person on Maternity Leave was paid the top of the scale. Is this right, or should I be paid the same as her whilst I am covering her role?

    Editor: Are you covering her full role or are there some elements that you are not covering? Her salary would reflect her experience and skills and it may be that all her roles are not being covered.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi i am currently on month 7 of my second maternity leave. The person covering my leave did so the 1st time round. They returned to their original role on my return post my 1st mat leave. I have now been told that their normal job is being advertised as a permanent position. I feel the implication is that the company are hoping that i won't be returning or handing in my notice rather than returning. On a legal front is this allowed as there won't be another role for my maternity cover to move into if i intend to return after my 12 months off??

    Editor: If you come back to work during additional maternity leave ie before the end of 12 months, you are entitled to your original job back or a suitable alternative if this is not available – this does not mean that it can just be given to your maternity cover. See

  • Anonymous says:

    I am due to start maternity leave in 12 weeks time, my employer has decided to cover my role with a much higher pay grade. This post will be temporary at first, but i get the impression this post will become permanent at some point. I have been told I will come back to work on the same pay/grade but I feel they shuoldnt be coveing my role with a higher grade especially as if it does become permanent it will affect my future career development. My post has been reviewed for rebanding recently, but this was turned down. i am also having key areas of work taken off me and given to higher grades of staff. Is this within their right?

    Editor: Any changes to your terms and conditions should be done in consultation with you – see You have a right to return to your job after ordinary maternity leave and to return to your job or a similar alternative after additional maternity leave – see

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi. I have just found out that my cover staff who i helped choose and I leave in 10 days. They are only getting paid £1000 more than my normal salary but is this allowed and should they tell me what their salary is.

    Editor: It depends on the circumstances of your case and why the cover is being paid more, for instance, if they had to come in at short notice or through an agency. If there are reasonable grounds for paying the cover more you would not have a case, but if it is likely that there is discrimination – for instance, is the cover male and being paid more simply due to their gender? – you could put in a grievance. 

  • Anonymous says:

    I am due to go on maternity leave in 8 weeks and I was shown the advert to recruit for my replacement and the salary is £7,000 more than what I am being paid. Can they do this? I am just wondering whether they could justify it by saying they need to recruit ASAP?

    Editor: As our lawyer Tracey Guest outlines above: Under every contract of employment there is an implied duty for employers not to act capriciously or inequitably in relation to pay, but whether that has been breached depends on several factors so you would need to find out on what grounds your employer has advertised the job at an increased salary. For instance, employers can argue that the higher pay is due to being unable to recruit someone quickly on a lower salary or that it reflects the fact that the job is temporary. If it is a factor such as that the cover is male that could be sex discrimination or if it is that the job is full time and you are part time that could be discrimination against part time workers. 

    If there are valid and fair reasons for paying the temporary cover more then this will be acceptable. At this stage, you need more information about the reasons for the higher salary. If they refuse to answer, then you can look at raising a written grievance. 

  • Anonymous says:

    I have recently found out that my maternity cover was getting paid a significant amount more than me with little and no experience. I have asked my manager why and they had no answer for me. He then told me that I would have been up for a pay review if I hadn't have been on maternity leave! I am tempted to raise it with HR but am a little unsure. Please could you advise?

    Editor: Our HR expert Sandra Beale says: "I would say it is potentially discriminatory behaviour of the employer particularly the comments about the pay review as they can not be objectively justified."

    • Stacey says:

      My god. I’m shocked all all of these comments. I came here wondering If anyone else might have the same issue as me. It seems that it is rife! Just disgusting

  • Anonymous says:

    What about getting less money if someone is on maternity cover. Is it OK? Or those two people should be treated in the same way and should receive the same amount of money. Please advise?

    Editor: This very much depends. The person recruited may not have the same experience as the person they are covering or be doing exactly the same job.

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