Paying back maternity payments: ask the expert

I am on maternity leave and my request to return to work part time has been declined and I’m unable to return full time. HR says if I do not return to my job (full time) I will either have to pay back my enhanced maternity pay or they will offset my accrued annual leave against the payments and waive the balance. Can they do this?

Some employees are fortunate to have a contract of employment that entitles them to maternity pay in excess of the statutory minimum. This can sometimes be as much as full pay for the full term of the maternity leave period. The problem is that it is normal practice for these schemes to require the employee to return to work for a period of time following maternity leave. If the employee does not return, the employer is entitled to ask for the additional sums to be re-paid.
In a situation where you decide not to (or are unable to) return to work following maternity leave, any holiday that you have accrued during maternity leave would normally be paid to you in a lump sum in your final wages.
In this particular situation, you are entitled to payment of your holiday pay, but your company is likely to have authority in your contract of employment to deduct from your wages any sums that are due to them (the excess maternity pay). Therefore, it sounds as if what is being proposed is fair. I’m more than happy for you to telephone me if you need any further advice and Lemon&Co offers assistance on a no win no fee basis.

Answer by Helen Climance
This gives a general overview only, based on the information available at the time of writing. It cannot be relied upon in any particular case. Specific legal advice must always be considered to include consideration as to whether the legal position contained has changed since publication. For further information and advice, please contact Lemon&Co Solicitors on 01793 527141 or visit their website:

Comments [5]

  • Anonymous says:

    I am on maternity leave and it has been six months and i want to leave due to my husband being in the armed forces and im not able to attend back to my emploment. what will it be ? would i have to pay all maternity pay back.

    Editor: Are you receiving SMP which is usually 6 weeks at 90% salary and then 33 weeks at around £137? If so, you will not have to pay anything back. If you are on an enhanced maternity scheme which is more than this you need to check the wording of your organisation's maternity policy as they may say you have to pay back the enhanced part if you do not return.

  • Anonymous says:

    Can you return to work full time and still receive maternity leave benrfits?

    Editor: SMP ends the week you return to work.


    • Anon says:

      I was paid enhanced mat pay, and my contract said I needed to pay this money back of I did not return to work. I was happy to do this and never returned after my mat leave ended in January 2019. When I handed in my notice my HR department said they’d be in contact in a week or two to arrange repayment….its now July and I’ve heard nothing. Is there a time limit in which they can come back to me?

      • Mandy Garner

        Mandy Garner says:

        I am just checking this with our employment lawyer.
        Best wishes.

      • Mandy Garner

        Mandy Garner says:

        Our lawyer Lorna Valcin says:
        There is no time limit I can think of outside the law of contract where there is a six-year time limit. So if there was a breach of contract, which I suppose failing to repay maternity benefits under your contract would be, then they could enforce at any time.
        She suggests that you contact the business and say can they let you know what is to be returned if you do not know that already. If the latter, you could just make the payment or negotiate to pay it back in instalments.

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