McGrigors is one the leading UK-based law firms with offices in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Aberdeen, Manchester, Qatar and Falkland Islands. It describes itself as one of the UK’s most dynamic law firms and reports in a recent press release that it has signed a commitment to widen access to the legal profession.
However, in a firm-wide memo issued on 13 September, staff were informed that it is commencing a consultation on paying bonuses to mothers who return to work and reducing pay for mothers who take a second maternity leave within 18 months from their last one.
It also plans to reduce long term sickness benefits.
The changes are planned to be introduced on 1 October following a final decision by the firm’s board which comprises 10 men and two women.
The current arrangements provide that, above the basic statutory entitlement, mothers with up to two years’ service post probation get 6 weeks’ full pay, those with 2-5 years’ service 12 weeks’ full pay and those with more than 5 years’ service 18 weeks’ full pay. Under the proposed arrangement up to two years’ service will qualify for three weeks’ full pay and six weeks’ half pay, plus a bonus of six weeks’ full pay if they return to work. This is further split into two instalments: half on their return and the other half after six months. For those with 2-5 years’ service the entitlements are six weeks’ full and six weeks’ half pay, with a corresponding 12 weeks’ full pay if they return on completion of maternity leave, again payable in two instalments.
However, if a further period of maternity leave is taken within 18 months of the last one, payments will be restricted to the statutory minimum.
It therefore appears that part of the maternity related entitlement will not remunerate mothers during maternity leave but will, in fact, constitute loyalty payments based on continued service after completion of maternity leave. Further, it is difficult to see how those who choose to have children who are close in age will be anything other than positively penalised.
Consultation closed last Friday and the outcome is unknown. It is notable that last April the firm’s employment department presented an employment seminar with the Work Foundation entitled “Flexible and Family Friendly Working”.