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CSP gains landmark victory in maternity leave case

3 August 2015 - 1:11pm

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) in Northern Ireland has promised to amend its policies after a CSP member won a landmark legal case.

CSP gains landmark victory in maternity leave case

The Western Health and Social Care Trust admitted that Mrs McDaid was legally entitled to 10 public holidays and that it had unlawfully discriminated against her on maternity grounds

The case involved Niamh McDaid, who returned to her post with Western Health and Social Care Trust last year after taking maternity leave. During that time 10 public holiday days had occurred, but the trust told her she was not entitled to them.

However, Mrs McDaid’s employment contract stated that she was entitled to 29 days’ leave plus 10 public holidays each year – standard terms which should still have applied during her maternity leave.

With CSP backing, Mrs McDaid submitted a grievance to the trust saying her entitlement should be reinstated on the grounds of unlawful maternity discrimination. This was rejected by the trust, both at an initial workplace grievance hearing in June 2014 and at an appeal in October.

Unlawful discrimination

Maternity leave and pay in the NHS: what are your rights?

Find out in our essential guide.

In response, Mrs McDaid escalated the case to an industrial tribunal hearing. On the day the tribunal hearing was due to take place – 17 June – the trust did an about turn and agreed to settle. It admitted that Mrs McDaid was legally entitled to the 10 public holidays and that it had unlawfully discriminated against her on maternity grounds.

As part of the settlement the CSP also secured a commitment from the DHSSPS that its policies would be amended. All NHS employees in Northern Ireland will now be entitled to the public holidays that occurred while they were on maternity leave when they go back to work.

Mrs McDaid, who has worked for her trust for 11 years, told Frontline: ‘I’m pleased that I stood my ground in this case, particularly because of the positive changes that will hopefully be felt by other NHS employees in similar situations. I’m grateful for the support of the CSP and for Thompsons Solicitors’ expert advice throughout.’

Implications beyond NI

Claire Ronald, a CSP senior negotiating officer, said: ‘This ruling has implications for NHS employees beyond Northern Ireland. The NHS in Scotland changed its policies on public holiday entitlement during maternity leave in 2012. However, our research suggests, and Mrs McDaid’s case illustrates, a piecemeal approach across the NHS to ensuring women on maternity leave receive their proper public holiday entitlement.

‘We’re pleased to have achieved this outcome on behalf of our member but are looking now to trusts across the UK to update their policies and practices to ensure workers’ contracts are upheld without the threat of a tribunal.’

Employment rights specialist Paul Upson of Thompsons Solicitors said: ‘Employees on maternity leave are entitled to benefit from all of the terms and conditions as outlined in their contract, aside from their usual salary which is replaced by maternity pay.

‘In this instance, by bringing the trust in question to account for its unlawful discrimination, we have ensured that all NHS employees in Northern Ireland on maternity leave will now receive an additional allocation of up to 10 public holidays. We hope that this change in Northern Ireland will set in play the necessary mechanisms to ensure staff throughout the NHS will receive their entitlement to public holidays while on maternity leave.’

CSP director Claire Sullivan said: ‘We were proud to support Niamh in achieving this landmark settlement that will now serve to protect other women from being discriminated against in the same way.'

Further resources

Maternity leave and pay in the NHS: what are your rights? Find out in our Information Paper.

Parental leave: Know your statutory rights and additional rights for people working in the NHS.

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