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Maternity Leave Benefits
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 you 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. This means the employee can and should still receive all the contractual benefits she would normally be entitled to receive, such as private healthcare or childcare vouchers.
Under section 18 of the Equality Act 2010, both pregnancy and maternity are protected. This means that an employer treating an employee unfavourably due to either pregnancy or maternity will be discriminating against that employee. Stopping the contractual benefits of an employee on maternity leave is directly discriminating against her. With damages for discrimination claims currently uncapped, employers could find themselves paying out large sums awarded by the court.
With regard to pensions, during the ordinary and paid additional maternity leave the contributions must continue as normal. During unpaid additional maternity leave there is no obligation for employer contributions to be made, unless it is written into your employment contract.