The employment tribunal case, involving a CSP member in Northern Ireland, stemmed from legal changes that a number of employers were not implementing. The law around maternity leave changed slightly in 2008, bringing greater clarity on the rights during both the paid and unpaid portions of maternity leave. The CSP subsequently sought legal guidance to be sure we were clear on the impact of the law change, and that was communicated to members, including through a Frontline article.
The society had no hand in making the changes to law but once the law changed it was important that to ensure that employers were applying it correctly and staff could access their rights. Employers cannot pick and choose which parts of the law they like and want to apply to their staff, and that is where the union is important in holding employers to account and in giving members a voice.
Although the CSP was clear on the enhanced rights for members, many human resource (HR) departments across the UK did not think they had to change their policies. Within Northern Ireland, one member was willing to challenge the employer’s view through the trust grievance process. There was a lengthy period of trying to get resolution both within the trust and partnership structures in Northern Ireland, but we were left with no option but to lodge a case at the tribunal, which we won.
So what does this mean for you? The starting point for you is that it is much easier to deal with this issue by raising questions prior to going off on maternity leave, rather than trying to sort it out retrospectively.
So first consult your employer’s maternity leave policy, and, second, if you feel it is incorrect, write to your HR department stating that you should be entitled to accrue statutory holidays while you are on maternity leave. Third, let your local steward know before you write to your human resources HR department. If your steward is aware of colleagues in a similar position it may be best to write collectively.
If HR responds saying they think their policy is correct then you will need to discuss with your steward taking a grievance forward. Your steward can get support for this from the regional senior negotiating officer.
If you don’t have a steward or you are employed outside the NHS – although the law applies to non-NHS employers how it is implemented will depend on your contract of employment – tel 020 306 6666 for advice.
- Claire Ronald is CSP senior negotiating officer for Northern Ireland.
Claire Ronald CSP senior negotiating officer for Northern Ireland