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Maternity leave / settlement agreement

(oops just posted this on the employment board but realised it might be better here, sorry for the duplication)

Long story so please bear with me.

I've been with my current employer for 6.5 years and am due to go on maternity leave with DC2 at the end of June. My current salary is £45,000 + £4,800 car allowance paid as cash. My performance has been good but payrises have been paltry however I've never really pushed this seeing as I've had a huge amount of flexibility over the years. Since having DC1 I've been a homeworker and do 4 days per week, though am paid full time as I've been using the huge amounts of leave I accrued to take 1 day off a week since being back from the last lot of maternity leave.

We've been undergoing a huge change programme, it's been in the pipeline for about 18 months and on 30 April we were told what it would mean for us. Everyone's jobs were put into categories - A&B are safe, C&D were not. I am in category B. Voluntary redundancy was open for everyone, regardless of category, to apply for between 6-23 May. Terms were that the VR payment would be 1 months' salary for every year of service (capped at 9 years), calculated to the day.

We all had 1-1's with our bosses and mine took place on 1 May whereby I was told my job was safe but that it would mean I'd now need to be in the office 5 days a week instead of being PT or a homeworker and that whilst this wasn't imminent, it would be the case when I return from maternity leave in a years' time. All homeworker contracts are rescindable with 3 months' notice and I have previously worked in the office they want me to go to, but doing the 1.5hr commute as a singleton was do-able - with 2 small children it isn't really......

I said that this obviously affects my personal life significantly so to make a decent decision I'd like to understand more about the voluntary redundancy and how my maternity pay/leave etc would be affected by that. I was told an answer would be forthcoming asap.

However, the VR application window came and went and I still didn't have an answer. I was told I would be exempt from the 23 May deadline.

Meanwhile, we start to recruit externally for my maternity cover. First ad, based on my current job description, goes on on 21 May. We get several CVs, and when asked for their salary expectations, any applicants who were suitable are wanting £15-25k more than my salary. Those asking for around my salary were far too junior and not appropriate.

Still no news on the VR until last week, 4 June, I get a call from my line manager saying that it had been an extremely complicated situation and that the bottom line was they couldn't offer me VR but would consider looking into a settlement agreement instead. They said they would overall love for me to stay after my maternity leave but couldn't, at this point in time, guarantee me the flexibility I'm looking for. So they see that there is a benefit to me going on a settlement agreement in that they can recruit for a longer-term role as of now rather than having the disruption (my words not theirs) of me coming back and having to hand back over plus asking for more flexible hours. This would mean my employment terminating on the same day my maternity leave would start (ie end of June).

They said they hadn't done the calculation for my settlement figure but that it would need to cost approximately the same as what it would cost to have me on (enhanced) maternity pay for the year (ie so they are no better or worse off), but they would do the calculation if it was something I was interested in looking at properly.

The next morning, 5 June, I emailed to say that I can't make a proper decision on either option without the figures so could they please go ahead and calculate this and that it would be great to get it by close of business Friday 6 June because it had taken a long time to get to this point and it was beginning to stress me out. Surprise surprise, here we are on 11 June and I still don't have a figure. Everything I've read on settlement agreements recommends a minimum of a 10 day review period after the settlement agreement is issued and if I'm due to leave on 27 June there isn't much time.

Also, telephone interviews were done this week for my maternity cover and an offer was made. This has been a bit of a kick in the teeth for 3 reasons:
  1. They clearly can turn things around quickly - phone interview on Monday, offer was out 24 hours later for this new person. Here I am 6 weeks later still waiting for a figure.
  2. My replacement is being offered £60,000 + £4,800 car allowance (so £15k more than me). The salary range for my role is £40-60k so she's gone straight to the top of the range. Knowing the way pay reviews etc work I know that being on maternity leave will give me the minimum pay rise next year (so 2-3% probably). I've known for ages I've been underpaid compared to the market, but have lived with it because they let me work abroad for a time (see below)and because of the homeworking benefit. Additionally, I've heard on the grapevine that the other candidates who I thought we were also going to interview didn't get a look in because this one "was the cheapest"....
  3. My cover is being provided with relocation assistance to move from Amsterdam to London so that she can start. A few years back I said that my DH had work in Australia and that I would need to resign unless they would support me working from the Sydney office. They said ok, but that I was to fund all costs, which I did. It worked fantastically for the business for me to be based out there, and I only came home because I was pregnant with DC1. Again they were quite accommodating of my plans yet insisted all removals, flights etc be at my costs seeing as it was all at my request. Again, I didn't really push it but now it feels an insult that at the drop of a hat they throw a load of relocation benefits at this girl and whilst I know Amsterdam to London one way is cheaper than London to Sydney and back, it's still galling. They've known since January that I'd be going on mat leave at the end of June so the fact that they are now in a panic to get her in and are happy to pay for it seems a further insult.
So anyway.............. I have no idea what I'm really posting or asking for but I'm wondering if I need to seek legal advice. With the settlement, I guess their fall back is "well your job is still available should you want it in 12 months time". But with the new person being paid more I just feel royally shafted. Am I? Or do I have to just suck all this up? I suspect the settlement offer is going to be naff, but if it is there is no incentive for me to leave as I may as well keep hold of the job and push for flexibility for when I go back. Worst case is that I do the required 30 days upon return so I don't need to repay the enhanced maternity pay and then look for something else. But am I in a position to push for more money given that they've kept me waiting and that they are paying my cover significantly more than me?

Gah. At 34 weeks pregnant and 2.5 weeks left of work I really don't need this.

Any advice would be most welcome. Thanks and well done if you read this far!!


  • getmore4lessgetmore4less Forumite
    46.3K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper I've helped Parliament
    They have probably decided you will resign so are going to let it run it's course.

    Break it down,

    They need to pay fixed term contract more than the full time roll so don't get to uptight about that..

    To pay you off they need to pay a min of the full maternity and the equivalent of the VR with the extra service + a bit to make it a compromise.

    Probably more than they want to pay so they will let you take extended maternity so they don't have to offer your current job back(something to watch out for).

    Think about the different rights between standard maternity and extended and consider just taking standard so you can insist on current job and 3 month notice to change back to office based.
  • PriciviusPricivius Forumite
    651 Posts
    Ninth Anniversary 500 Posts
    As getmore4less suggests, breakdown the issues and consider what you want as a solution.

    You accept that you could and probably should have asked for a pay rise over the years, but you didn't. You can't really get all upset that someone else did ask. Most companies would be stupid to throw money at employees who aren't asking for it and seem happy in their role, which you appear to have been. Put this one down to a mistake on your part. Plus as pointed out above, fixed term contractors will usually get more than perm employees so some of it is down to that. For your purposes now, it's all irrelevant.

    So - what do you want? They've given you a heads-up that they are invoking the clause that gets you back in the office with a big commute and a 5-day week. Presumably you don't want this. So, either you linger on on mat leave, have to come back for the required time to keep your enhanced pay, and then fight the flexible working issue (which you are likely to lose as they seem pretty clued up), OR see what deal you can get, have your baby and look for something suitable at your leisure with the pay-out backing you up.

    As for timescales, once their provide a draft settlement agreement, you need to take legal advice which they will contribute towards. There's not really much point taking advice before you get that, but don't agree to anything until your solicitor has seen it. 10 days would be lovely, but these things can be sewn up in a couple of days if the parties are on board, hours if necessary! They know the timescales your working towards regarding your mat leave so they should get moving at some point...
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