Company did not discriminate against woman on maternity leave
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held that a company’s childcare voucher scheme did not discriminate against a woman on maternity leave.
The case involved a company that operated a scheme that enabled employees to forego part of their salary in exchange for childcare vouchers. Entry to the scheme was conditional on employees accepting that membership during maternity leave would be suspended if they were in receipt of statutory maternity pay but no other pay.
An employee refused to accept that term, as she believed it to be discriminatory.
The tribunal held that those on maternity leave were entitled to non-pay benefits, and that the employer had acted unlawfully by requiring employees to forego such benefits as a condition of joining the scheme.
The EAT has now overturned that decision. It gave various reasons for its ruling, including the fact that the law allowed payment of a lower salary to those on maternity leave. It was not discrimination, nor contrary to the regulations.
Where part of the employee's wage was used by arrangement to pay for childcare, it was difficult to see why she should be entitled not only to the minimum maternity pay but also to the amount spent on childcare.
To require the continued provision of vouchers during maternity leave would produce a windfall benefit for an employee but would also impose a cost upon employers and discourage them from offering such a scheme. Parliament could not have intended that consequence.
Please contact Jackie Cuneen if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.