Workplace Report July 2012


Unions keep up pressure for improved deals for parents

The pace of change on maternity and paternity rights has slowed considerably under the coalition government. However, collective bargaining has continued, particularly on paternity pay and leave. Workplace Report’s latest survey trawls through the agreements on LRD’s Payline database to discover the elements in the best negotiated deals.

The creation of the coalition government following the 2010 general election brought to a close the rapid improvement in working parents’ rights ushered in under Labour. Although the coalition last year did propose a new parental leave system, allowing mothers and fathers to share more of the leave, its response to the consultation has been delayed for nearly a year. It will now not be published until autumn at the earliest.

The lack of recent legislative improvements, however, has not meant an end to collective bargaining in this area. While there has not been quite the same frenzy of activity as there had been in the previous few years, negotiators have continued to push employers to keep up with the rising expectations of working parents.

In addition they have been working to put into effect the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010, which were introduced just before the general election and improved flexibility for working parents in the first year of their child’s life.

The Labour Research Department (LRD) has gathered information on negotiated maternity and paternity arrangements as part of its work in producing the 2012 TUC Equality Audit. It has conducted a survey of workplace reps, to get an idea of trends in this area in the past couple of years, and has carried out an analysis of current maternity and paternity leave and pay agreements on the LRD’s Payline database to see what are the average, and the best, negotiated deals.

The survey of reps indicated that there has been rather more activity in the area of paternity pay and leave in the last couple of years than on maternity pay and leave. Just under a quarter (24%) of reps had seen changes on maternity arrangements while more than a third (37%) had seen changes on paternity. This is perhaps not surprising as there has been a focus in recent years on encouraging more shared parenting, and the main change in the legal framework over the period of this survey was the introduction of Additional Paternity Leave and Pay (see below).

Maternity pay and leave

While almost one in four reps said there had been changes in maternity provision in the past two years, in most cases this was merely to keep collective agreements up-to-date with statutory rights.

However, there were one or two examples of newly enhanced provision. At the College of West Anglia, all women now receive the first six weeks at 90%, whereas under the Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) scheme, only women who have 26 weeks’ service by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC) qualify for this. Similarly, Norfolk County Council has started to provide all women with full pay for the first six weeks.

Other ways in which maternity provision has been improved include an arrangement at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue, where pregnant women fire fighters are given support to stay on their shifts if appropriate, where previously they were made to work days. At the HSBC bank there is a right for mothers to return to work at half their previous full hours if require, not just the right to request it.

On the downside, in September 2011, Plymouth City Council cut its previous contractual enhancements to maternity pay so women are now just entitled to the statutory minimum. Previously the council had paid the first six weeks at 90% of normal pay, followed by either 12 weeks at 50% pay or 20 weeks at 30% pay.

Payline records 256 collective agreements on maternity pay and leave that in some way go beyond the minimum statutory requirements. This represents 79% of all current maternity agreements (325) recorded on the database.

This proportion is rather higher than was revealed in a similar exercise carried out by LRD in 2009, when 58% of collective agreements recorded were better than the statutory regime. This may be partly to do with some “catch up”: the earlier research was carried out at a time when there had been recent rapid improvements in statutory entitlements.

Staff in large unionised organisations are much more likely than those in small ones to benefit from enhanced maternity provisions. In organisations with more than 300 employees, 84% have better-than-statutory provision. This compares with 59% in organisations with fewer than 300 workers.

And agreements in the public sector are more likely to beat statutory entitlements (93% do so) than those in the private sector (where 66% do so).

Enhanced maternity provision is also more prevalent in certain industrial sectors . (However, the Payline data is less reliable here as it contains only a small number of agreements in some sectors.) Those sectors faring less well are manufacturing, retail, wholesale, hotels and catering and other services.

Maternity agreements above statutory minimum

Sector %
Health 100
Finance and business services 94
Public administration 94
Energy, water, mining, nuclear 91
Education (F&HE) 91
Transport and communications 85
Other services 64
Retail, wholesale, hotels and catering 63
Manufacturing (engineering and metal products) 56
Manufacturing (other) 37
Manufacturing (chemical, mineral and metals) 33
All 79

The key ways in which agreements surpass the legal minimum are as follows:

• they provide, in one way or another, for more maternity pay than the legal minimum, which is six weeks at 90% of average earnings plus a further 33 weeks at a flat rate of £135.45 a week (or 90% of average earnings, whichever is the lower); and/or

• they provide for some paid leave without the statutory service requirement of 26 weeks prior to the “qualifying week”.

Almost three-quarters of maternity deals — 71% or 232 in number — stored on Payline provide women with a percentage of their pay beyond the statutory first six weeks.

Two-thirds of all maternity agreements — 66% or 215 in number — pay women at their full pay for a period of their leave. The median number of weeks at full pay is 16 (this is often followed by a further period of enhanced pay, for example 50% of normal pay).

The best of contractual maternity pay schemes provide a year of leave at full pay. There are four such deals on the Payline database of which three are in the private sector. They are at car manufacturers Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover, while the only such agreement in the public sector is at the land and property registry Registers of Scotland, where civil servants with a year’s service are entitled to a year’s leave on full pay.

Another good agreement is at Royal Mail Holdings (Quadrant Catering) which provides 40 weeks’ maternity leave on full pay, while five organisations give 39 weeks on full pay. These are the Cabinet Office, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Macmillan Publishers, the Scottish Court Service and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue.

Most of these top deals are restricted to staff with one year’s service, though at Ford and the Cabinet Office the service requirement is only 26 weeks.

While the law provides for one year’s maternity leave for all staff, irrespective of their service, it does not require employers to pay women during any of this leave unless they have 26 weeks’ service by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of confinement. However, some unions have managed to negotiate contractual pay for women who do not meet the service qualification for Statutory Maternity Pay. The Payline database includes 14 agreements along these lines.

The best of these deals are in the public sector at the Civil Aviation Authority, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which all provide 26 weeks on full pay to all women regardless of service.

Paternity leave and pay

Just under four in 10 reps in the survey said there had been alterations in their paternity pay and leave arrangements in the last two years. These were overwhelmingly changes to accommodate the new statutory Additional Paternity Leave and Pay scheme (APL&P) (see below).

However, there were a few examples of improved ordinary paternity leave and pay provision, including at City & Guilds Institute, where provision was increased from two weeks on full pay to four weeks on full pay.

At Plymouth City Council, matters had gone the other way, as with maternity provision. The entitlement was reduced from one week at full pay and one at Statutory Paternity Pay (£135.45 a week in 2012-13) to the basic two weeks at SPP.

Payline records 257 paternity leave agreements which go beyond the statutory minimum, accounting for three-quarters (76%) of the 340 paternity agreements on the database. This proportion is rather higher than in 2009, when under two-thirds (63%) of our collective agreements were better than the statutory regime.

As with maternity, enhanced paternity deals are more common in large organisations than in small ones, though the differences are less wide than for maternity. In organisations with more than 300 employees, four out of five (80%) have better-than-statutory provision. This compares with two-thirds (66%) in organisations with fewer than 300.

And agreements in the public sector are more likely to improve on statutory entitlements (84% do so) than those in the private sector (where 67% do so).

Enhanced paternity provision is also more prevalent in certain industrial sectors (see table). Again, however, the Payline data is less reliable here as it contains only a small number of agreements in some sectors.

Those sectors faring less well than average are manufacturing (except chemical, mineral and metal products), finance and business services, retail, wholesale, hotels and catering, energy and water and other services.

Paternity agreements above statutory minimum

Sector %
Health 88
Public administration 85
Transport and communications 81
Manufacturing (chemical, mineral and metals) 80
Education 80
Other services 71
Manufacturing (engineering and metal products) 69
Finance and business services 67
Manufacturing (other) 61
Retail, wholesale, hotels and catering 55
Energy, water, mining, nuclear 46
All 76

Ways in which agreements improve upon the statutory minimum paternity provision are to:

• provide some pay above the statutory rate;

• provide for more than 10 days’ leave;

• provide paternity leave without a service requirement; and

• allow paternity leave to be split, rather than taken as a single block of one or two weeks.

A total of 242 of the deals (72%) recorded on Payline provide for a period of paid leave at a percentage of salary, rather than at the flat rate of SPP, providing full pay for between two and 20 days.

And 28 of the 340 Payline paternity agreements allow for more than 10 days’ leave, the longest period of extra leave being 10 days and the median period of extra leave being five days.

The best deals are at City & Guilds Institute, Guernsey Post Office, Royal Mail (Customer Services) and Royal Mail Holdings (Quadrant Catering), which give full pay for 20 days. Another 14 provide full pay for 15 days. While many of these provisions are only available to those with a year’s service, the Highways Agency gives full pay for 15 days irrespective of service.

Additional Paternity Leave and Pay

APL&P, which is separate from ordinary paternity leave (the two weeks’ leave at SPP), applies to parents of children born on or after 3 April 2011. It enables a mother to transfer up to 26 weeks of her statutory maternity leave entitlement and any unused SMP or Maternity Allowance (MA) to the father of the child or her partner from 20 weeks after the birth.

More than one in four reps in the survey said their APL&P provision was better, in pay terms, than the statutory minimum. However, the details they provided did not bear this out and some of the information they provided was in fact about enhanced pay for ordinary paternity leave. Also, while a large number said there had been improvements to paternity leave in the last two years, these were almost all updates to existing policies to incorporate the basic statutory APL&P provisions — not better-than-statutory rights for fathers. There is clearly some confusion between traditional paternity leave and the new APL&P.

Nevertheless, combining information from the reps’ survey and from the Payline database throws up a small amount of evidence of the beginnings of collective negotiations to improve upon statutory APL&P provision.

There were 10 agreements that improve on the statutory APL&P scheme. This compares to the 257 agreements that improve on the statutory provisions for ordinary paternity leave and pay. Of this handful of agreements the most common improvement was to provide contractually enhanced pay to employees taking Additional Paternity Leave (APL) between weeks 20 and 26 after childbirth.

Examples of enhanced Additional Paternity Leave provision

Employer Enhancement above statutory level
Bangor University Paternity pay during weeks 20-26 is at 50% of normal pay plus Additional Statutory Paternity Pay or 90% of normal salary if this is less
Bank of England If mother takes less than 26 weeks' leave, father will get full pay for any unused weeks taken from 20 weeks after childbirth
Bath University Eligible staff get up to six weeks at half pay
BT (NewGRID grades and managers, professionals and salespeople) Half basic pay or Additional Statutory Paternity Pay, whichever is the greater, for APL taken in the period up to and including week 26 of maternity leave
Diamond Light Source Ltd Full pay between weeks 20 and 26
Ecclesiastical Insurance APL taken between week 20 and week 26 is paid at 50% of salary
Nestlé UK 13 weeks at full pay
Oxford Mental Health Trust If APL is taken in preference to maternity leave it will be paid at full pay for eight weeks and half pay for 18 weeks up to total of 26 weeks
The Scottish Parliament APL taken between weeks 20 and 26 after childbirth are fully paid
University College London Statutory except no service requirement to be eligible for leave though 26 weeks’ service is needed to be eligible for pay

However, the TUC Equality Audit pointed out that, “as few women employees return to work before 26 weeks’ leave (13%), relatively few fathers and partners may benefit from enhancing this period of APL”.

There were two agreements which provided significant improvements on the statutory scheme. One was at food and drink multinational Nestlé UK, which provides 13 weeks on full pay for an employee on Additiona Paternity Leave, and the other was in the NHS at Oxford Mental Health Trust, which provides eight weeks on full pay and 18 weeks on half pay.

Further legislative changes to maternity and paternity in pipeline

In May 2011, the coalition government published its Modern Workplaces consultation which, among other things, proposes a new system of shared parental leave to replace existing rights to maternity leave and additional paternity leave from 2015. The consultation closed last August, but the government response has been delayed.

It is thought that the government will propose:

• 18 weeks of maternity leave, which is exclusive to the mother;

• 34 weeks of Shared Parental Leave, which can be taken by either parent; and

• six weeks of Paternity Leave, which can be taken by the father or partner around the time of the birth.

The TUC, along with campaign groups such as Maternity Action and the Fawcett Society, are pleased about some of the ideas being considered but concerned about certain key aspects. For example, the TUC “welcomes the commitment to create a more flexible system of leave in the first year of a child’s life” but is worried about the reduction in what is termed “maternity leave” from 26 to 18 weeks.

It says: “Reducing the maternity leave period to 18 weeks gives the message that this is the normal period of leave needed for women to prepare and recover from childbirth and to bond and care for a newborn baby.”

Although a women would still be able to take shared parental leave once her 18 weeks’ maternity leave ends, the TUC says: “We believe there is an increased risk that some women will be pressured to return to work early by their employer or a partner if 18 weeks is seen as the ‘norm’ for maternity.” This would be of particular concern “if there is a lack of job security or the family has financial worries”.

The TUC is also concerned at the possible effect of the 18-week designated maternity period on the sort of enhanced maternity arrangements provided by many employers, particularly those who negotiate with unions. It points out that a third of mothers, and half of those in unionised workplaces, receive some “occupational maternity pay” (OMP) on top of their SMP, and that 85% of them receive it for 26 weeks or more. It says: “If the maternity leave period is reduced to 18 weeks the TUC is concerned that some employers will follow suit and reduce their OMP.”

It has urged the government to retain the 26-week maternity period. It says this would not negatively affect the likelihood of fathers making use of leave: the evidence indicates that fathers’ take-up of the right will be low anyway because the leave is only to be paid at SMP, which is 74% less than men’s median weekly earnings.