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I’m currently 34 weeks pregnant and going on maternity leave in January. I have been working for my employer for nearly two years. I have been notified last week that my job is at risk within a collective redundancy. I had my first consultation meeting in early December where I was given the reasons. Basically, my job is no longer needed so it is not pregnancy or maternity leave-related which is fine. They have no alternative job that is suitable for me so they are now looking at financial compensation which will be offered to me. My questions are: 1) Is it better to be made redundant before (while pregnant) or during maternity leave? Is there any difference in terms of legal treatment? 2) My notice period is two months. I will therefore have just over two years tenure in total because the first redundancy notices will be issued in late December. What can I expect financially? Are they obliged to pay the bonus? 3) What and how can I best negotiate to avoid paying too much tax? From when will I stop being on the company’s payroll? 4) The consultation process ends in late December. Will it change anything if I start my maternity leave earlier on that day or even before? 5) SMP will probably be paid as a lump sum and I’m thinking of start searching for a new job from August. What do I say during interviews? That I have been made redundant or that I’m on maternity leave?
Firstly congratulations, I hope all goes well for your new arrival. Secondly, there are several pieces of information that would be required to answer your questions fully (such as what are the contractual details of the bonus you refer to) and therefore in addition to my answers below you may want to take some specific advice on the overall issues:
1. As you seem to be aware from your question, you are protected from discrimination as a result of your pregnancy and so there would be little difference between the legal treatment whether you are made redundant before or during your maternity leave provided it is a genuine redundancy situation. However, for your employer, it would be much easier to have a proper and meaningful consultation with you before you start your maternity leave. As you mentioned it is a collective redundancy consultation, the consultation period must last at least 45 days, so this should be concluded before you are due to start your maternity leave.
2. If you are working your notice (and starting your maternity leave during this period) so that your last date of employment falls after you have worked for the company for two years, then you will be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment calculated on the basis of your age and length of service. The amount of your weekly pay is capped for these purposes, currently at £475 per week. You can check your entitlement on the Gov.uk website (https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay) and your entitlement will be approximately £950. You will also be entitled to any accrued but untaken holiday and your statutory maternity pay. Whether you are entitled to receive the bonus depends on the detail of the particular bonus scheme, but this may be something you can negotiate.
3. You will remain on the company’s payroll until your last payment has been processed. The statutory redundancy payment can be paid tax free, but you will pay tax on any holiday, bonus and (usually) notice pay. If the company offers an enhanced redundancy payment, this may be paid tax free as compensation depending on the circumstances. It would be a requirement of receiving any enhanced payment that you sign a settlement agreement in return, waiving any rights to claim against the company.
4. As it sounds like the redundancy situation is genuine and separate from your personal circumstances, then I do not think choosing to start your maternity leave earlier would have a significant impact on the situation as you say there are no alternative positions available at the company.
5. Technically it sounds like, if your redundancy is confirmed, it will take effect no later than the end of February 2016, so depending on how long you were planning to take as maternity leave the answer may well be both – that you have been made redundant and you are currently on maternity leave, but that you’re keen to return to work by a certain date.