There is currently a claim being contested through the Employment Tribunal process (Peninsula Business Services Vs Donaldson) where an employee who has been on maternity leave has been refused to access the Company’s Childcare Voucher scheme as their conditions of operating the scheme stipulates that during certain periods of absence from the business including maternity leave, employees’ are not eligible to use the scheme.
The initial hearing found that the employer in this case had discriminated against the employee and should have continued this benefit during maternity leave. However the employer has appealed this decision on the grounds that such circumstances will mean the scheme will have to be run indefinitely at a great cost to the business and could jeopardise its potential to be able to offer this benefit in the first place.
At the moment the final decision on this case is yet to be reached as it is now pending a judgment. It is likely to be several months before a decision is made but employers should be aware that this could potentially change the entire landscape of how Childcare Schemes currently operate and those that have included an exemption to the scheme for employees on maternity leave will have to change this should the appeal be rejected.
This situation will be appeased in 2017 when the current Childcare scheme between employees’ and their employers’ is phased out and will be replaced by a new scheme initiated directly between individuals and the government. Therefore meaning the burden will be removed from employers.
But until then it is important to understand the complexities that can exist around how such benefits are administered and care should be taken when reviewing how such schemes are managed.
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Bye for now