As first tweeted by RollOnFriday, the firm emailed all employees this week to say it was running a consultation on changes to its maternity and sick pay policies. Many are pretty uncontroversial, but a couple have prompted outrage amongst staff.
The most egregious is a line in the document that says "if you become pregnant again and your qualifying date falls within 18 months of your return from your previous pregnancy, you will not be entitled to any enhanced maternity provisions". In other words, if staff don't leave a gap of a couple of years between dropping their sprogs, they get nothing. What about people who make the decision to have children quickly for medical reasons? Age discrimination, anyone?
A spokesman said that "this is a genuine consultation, we have built in extensive scope for feedback and will listen to the views and ideas of staff. While we sometimes do have to make difficult decisions in the long term interests of the business, nothing is set in stone as far as these proposals are concerned." So with a bit of luck this nonsense will be dropped.
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There has also been grumbling about the introduction of a "returning bonus". Under the current policy, a mother with more than five years' service at the firm gets 18 weeks full pay. The proposed policy replaces this with six weeks at full pay and six weeks at half pay, with a bonus of 12 weeks full pay if they return to work. Half of this is paid on their return, half after a further six months - and all of it must be repaid if they resign within 12 months of returning.
It seems fair enough for the firm to encourage staff to return, and as a spokesman says "anyone who takes maternity leave and then remains with us would be better off under the new arrangement". But as one insider says, mothers need the cash while they're actually on maternity leave, not when they're back at work. And "not everyone can afford the support as easily as the firm's well-paid partners".