Should I have got one-off pay boost on maternity leave?

While I have been on maternity leave my colleagues had a one-off pay rise. This was not a performance-related bonus, but a flat rate paid to all employees. This consisted of one payment for the first months of the year, with the remainder paid across four months. I was only paid a small sum for the six weeks I was getting enhanced maternity pay and then nothing for the rest of my leave.
It was not a performance bonus, just a flat rate for everyone. Is this legal?
Folder with label saying 'salaries'

 

The area of law involved in your case concerns potential breach of contract in relation to unpaid wages (unlawful deduction of earnings) and/or pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is one of the nine protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.  An employer must not treat a woman unfavourably during the protected period (the protected period is the period which starts when a woman’s pregnancy begins and ends or at the end of the maternity leave period) Section 18(6) of the Act.

Some common situations in which a woman can experience unfavourable treatment because she is on maternity leave can be because of pay rises during maternity. If all staff have been awarded a pay rise, then lawfully you should be entitled to the payment.

If you do not receive the increase, this could be unlawful discrimination. Ordinarily, your contractual maternity pay should be recalculated so that it is based on your salary plus the pay rise given to all your colleagues.  I note the arrangement to spread the pay rise over a period of months and that you have received part payment.

Note that Paragraph 17(1) of the Act provides that depriving a woman on maternity leave of pay not regulated by her contract (such as a discretionary bonus) will not amount to pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

You, therefore, have a potential claim for pregnancy and maternity discrimination because you have not received the pay rise and a potential claim for unlawful deduction of earnings.  

Please bear in mind that the first thing you should do is lodge a grievance with your employer to request full payment. You can also pursue a claim via ACAS for Early Conciliation at  https://www.acas.org.uk/early-conciliation.

It is important to note, there are time limits in relation to the submission of claims. In relation to pregnancy and maternity discrimination, it will be three months – less one day – from the first or last act of discrimination (when you said you did not receive payment).

In relation to unlawful deduction of earnings the claim, however, must be started within three months – less one day – of the date when the payment was due, or the date of the last payment if there are several payments due.

*Nikki Sharpe is an employment expert at Best Solicitors. Nikki advises both businesses and individuals on all aspects of employment law. She specialises in discrimination and bullying in the workplace and supports businesses with HR and employment law training. More information on Nikki Sharpe can be found at www.bestsolicitorsonline.co.uk



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