Pay rises awarded to pregnant workers must be taken into account when
working out their maternity leave pay, even if the increase took place just
before they stopped work to have a baby, the European Court of Justice (ECJ)
It has intervened in a case brought by Michelle Alabaster against her
employer, the Woolwich Building Society, which has dragged on since 1996 in UK
and EU courts.
She had complained that a pay rise just before her maternity leave had not
been reflected in her maternity pay, claiming the building society had
therefore committed illegal sexual discrimination.
The Woolwich and the British Government opposed this, noting the pay rise
came after the reference period used to calculate maternity pay (ending 15
weeks before maternity leave). Proceedings ended up at the Court of Appeal,
which referred them to the ECJ for guidance on EU law.
It has ruled that under European case law "any pay rise awarded between
the beginning of the period covered by the reference pay and the end of the
maternity leave must be included" in calculations.
The Court of Appeal also asked how to take account of such a belated pay
rise, but the ECJ said it was for national authorities to decide, in the
absence of EU law.