Childcare voucher entitlement doubles to 52 weeks from 5 October

Employers that offer childcare vouchers to mothers on maternity leave must do so for 52 weeks of such leave once new maternity leave provisions come into force on 5 October.

UK law firm Dundas & Wilson said it had received several calls from clients who were unsure about how the revised regulations would affect childcare vouchers offered under salary sacrifice schemes, along with other vouchers and car park spaces.

“We’ve told them they must continue to offer these benefits or they could be open to claims of sex discrimination,” said partner Graham Paul.

Fellow Dundas & Wilson partner Mandy Laurie added: “Mothers who give birth on or after 5 October will be entitled to childcare vouchers for a year instead of six months as before. The provision of childcare vouchers is a contractual obligation, so employers who stop someone’s entitlement – even mistakenly – could be subject to breach of contract or sex discrimination claims.”

Paul said that, in theory, mothers-to-be could convert all of their pay into non-salary benefits before going on maternity leave, although he conceded that would be unlikely. However, he added that employers could withdraw salary sacrifice schemes if they wanted to and most would have provisions in such schemes to do so.

A Personnel Today survey earlier this year found that three-quarters of organisations offered childcare vouchers, but that take-up was low.

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