Pregnant Chesterfield nurse calls for changes to ‘unfair’ NHS maternity pay policy
A pregnant community nurse from Chesterfield has called for changes to an ‘unfair’ NHS maternity pay policy as she faces returning to work shortly after giving birth simply because she cannot afford to be off.
Emily Spence, 27, has been qualified for a year having spent the three years prior doing her nursing degree – working ‘bank’ shifts at Chesterfield Royal Hospital around her studies.
She became a community nurse last March and, at 30 weeks pregnant, is now working from home before she heads off on maternity leave.
The soon-to-be mother expected to be entitled to NHS maternity pay – eight weeks of full pay, then 18 weeks of half pay, then a further 13 weeks of statutory maternity pay – however has since been told this is not the case.
She said: "I’ve worked as a nurse throughout Covid. I’ve got to have worked there a year to be entitled to it. I’ve argued this because it says in the handbook that if you’ve done continuing NHS service it doesn’t matter if you’ve not been there a year.
"They haven’t taken my time as a student nurse into consideration because they’re saying with doing bank shifts, although I did them regularly, that I’m classed as a worker and not an employee.
"That’s where it doesn’t count which I say is unfair because regardless of if you’re a worker or an employee it should go on the individual and it should also be continued throughout the NHS because as a student nurse, you’re doing three years free work for the NHS.”
Emily would have had to have started full-time employment just weeks before her actual start date to make her eligible for the NHS scheme.
Instead she will receive statutory maternity pay – 90 per cent of her average weekly earnings for the first six weeks and then £151.20 or 90 per cent, whichever is lower, for 33 weeks thereafter.
Emily added: "It’s a big kick in the face. I’m full-time and I’d be getting a lot more than that. Because of the pay and what they’re doing, I’m having to go back to work early because I can’t live off that.”
Darren Tidmarsh, director of people services and organisational effectiveness for Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are very sympathetic to Emily’s situation and would like to help if we can.
"She joined us at the start of the pandemic and has provided fantastic care to her patients during what has been the most challenging time for the NHS and here in Derbyshire has been no exception. The rules around NHS maternity pay are stipulated for us by national policy and everyone is bound by the same terms.
"We completely understand how regrettable this is for anyone who falls just outside the service requirements to qualify by a few weeks. We are making contact with Emily to see if there is anything further she feels we should explore in determining her individual eligibility.
"We are keen that she can fully enjoy the excitement of her forthcoming maternity leave and preparing for a new baby and we will work with her on any possible avenues to support that aim.”