Probationary teachers lose fight for occupational maternity pay

28th August 2009 at 01:00
National implications for judgment

In a judgment with national implications, two probationary teachers who became pregnant during their training period have lost their fight to be paid occupational maternity pay by an education authority.

The two took their fight to an employment tribunal, backed by the Educational Institute of Scotland.

But the Glasgow tribunal rejected their claims, ruling they were not employed at the relevant time so could not be paid occupational maternity pay. Their employment had ended at the same time as their probationary period, at the end of the school session.

If successful, the claims would have had severe implications for education authorities across Scotland.

Geraldine Metivier, 28, a probationer at Bishopbriggs Academy, and Lynn Gribben, 33, who was allocated a place at St Agatha's Primary in Kirkintilloch, completed induction in June last year.

Ms Metivier discovered she was pregnant in December 2007 and told her employer, East Dunbartonshire Council, in May 2008. Mrs Gribben discovered she was pregnant in February last year and informed the council.

She was surprised to be told by the council that she was entitled to occupational maternity pay and told Ms Metivier that she too would be entitled to it.

They were given their P45s in the summer holidays which gave their leaving date as August 13, 2008. This was the day before the beginning of the new academic year.

The two were then told that, as they were probationary teachers, they were not entitled to occupational maternity pay and they took advice from the EIS.

The two argued that they were entitled to the maternity pay as they had the relevant 26 weeks' service at the relevant date, 11 weeks before the expected week of confinement. They claimed it was not necessary to remain employed and to be on maternity leave in order to qualify for occupational maternity pay.

The council argued the teachers would have to be in its employ to qualify for the maternity pay and they were no longer employed.

Employment judge Walter Muir concluded their employment had ended on June 27, 2008.

After that date, neither was employed nor on maternity leave. Requiring the council to pay ordinary maternity pay to temporary employees such as probationary teachers after their employment had ended and when they were not on maternity leave was "completely contrary to reason", the tribunal said.

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