Many employment contracts incorporate benefits for employees such as private healthcare, pensions and childcare vouchers. When an employee takes maternity leave the employer can be left paying for various contractual benefits for up to 52 weeks, but could they prevent the employee from receiving these benefits?
Maternity leave is applicable regardless of the length of service an employee has with the business and the duration of the leave could be substantial. The entitlement for maternity leave is up to 52 weeks, 26 of ordinary maternity leave and 26 of additional maternity leave. During these weeks the contract of employment is still in force, therefore the employee can and should still receive all of the contractual benefits she would normally be entitled to receive such as private healthcare or childcare vouchers.
Under s18 of the Equality Act 2010 both pregnancy and maternity are protected, meaning that any employer treating an employee unfavourably due to either characteristic will be discriminating against that employee. To stop the contractual benefits of an employee on maternity leave would be to directly discriminate against her. With damages for discrimination claims currently uncapped, employers found to be discriminating against employees could find themselves paying out large sums awarded by the court.
However with regard to pensions, during the ordinary and paid additional maternity leave the contributions must continue as normal, but during the unpaid additional maternity leave there is no obligation for employer contributions to be made unless it is written into the employment contract.
For clarity between both parties it is good practice to set out the position and obligation of both parties within a maternity policy. Our employment specialist, Umberto Vietri, is happy to provide further assistance on any employment matter. Please contact him on 01535 613674 or alternatively at firstname.lastname@example.org
Partner and Commercial Solicitor
Tel: (01535) 613 674