Labour Research May 2004

Features: Equality

Maternity ruling

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that UK government rules on calculating Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) are unlawful.

In the long-running case of Michelle Alabaster against the Woolwich Building Society and the Secretary of State for Social Security (see Labour Research November 2003), the ECJ has said that a woman who receives a pay rise at any time before the end of her maternity leave must receive the benefit of this in the earnings-related part of her maternity pay. It is a breach of the equal pay provisions of European law to deny her this pay rise.

The SMP rules say that the earnings-related part of the payment is calculated on what a woman is paid in the eight weeks ending in the 15th week before the baby is due. In Alabaster's case this was before a 10% pay increase was awarded.