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Mothers lose out on threshold payments

Retired teachers also face having their pensions docked. Susannah Kirkman reports

TEACHERS on maternity leave have lost hundreds of pounds because of the delay in introducing threshold payments. Some retired teachers who have returned to teaching will also find themselves out of pocket.

Sarah Law, a history teacher from Grantham, Lincolnshire, was dismayed to discover that she will be pound;400 worse off because the threshold payments were not processed quicker.

Mrs Law chose to work until November 18, 2000, three weeks before her baby was due, and 10 weeks after threshold pay was introduced in September. But maternity pay is calculated from a date 15 weeks before the baby is due, and is based on the average wage in the previous two months - June and July in Mrs Law's case. Her earnings in September, October and November are therefore excluded from the maternity pay calculations, even though she worked during these months.

"During my 19-week leave period, I am not eligible for any threshold back payment," she said.

Val Shields, assistant secretary at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said it was unfortunate that Mrs Law had lost so much money - but there was nothing anyone could do about it. "The methods used to calculate maternity pay are statutory," she added.

Only teachers whose babies were due after mid-February 2001 will have maternity pay based on full threshold payments.

Retired teachers could also have their pensions docked if their backdated threshold pay brings them above their earnings limit or "salary of reference".

Under the rules of the Teachers' Pension Scheme, retired teachers who have returned to the classroom must not earn more from their pay an pension combined than their salary of reference.

Retired teachers tend to go close to the wire when they work out how much they are allowed to earn, leaving no leeway if their salary is suddenly increased, according to Marion Bird, deputy head of pensions at the ATL.

"A lot of these teachers will get little benefit from their backdated threshold pay," she explained. "If the payments bring them above their salary of reference, their pension will be reduced by the same amount (see right). They may even have to repay any extra pension they have already received."

Teachers who are unsure about their salary of reference can obtain the figure from Teachers' Pensions: retired teachers call 01325 745547; working teachers call 01325 745746


MR CHIPS is a retired teacher who has a salary of reference of pound;28,000 and an annual pension of pound;12,000. He takes a part-time job which pays pound;16,000 a year. He is awarded an annual threshold increase of pound;1,320. In March 2001, he receives a backdated threshold payment of pound;770 from September 2000 to March 2001, bringing him pound;770 above his salary of reference. His pension has been paid until end of March, so he has to repay the pound;770 during the next financial year.

MS BRODIE has a salary of reference of pound;21,000 and an annual pension of pound;12,000. She takes a part-time job which pays pound;11,000 a year. In May 2001, she is awarded a threshold increase of pound;1,000 a year. She receives a backdated threshold payment of pound;750 in June. In March 2002, she receives pound;250 pension, instead of the usual pound;1,000, as Teachers' Pensions have deducted the amount she has earned above her salary of reference.

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