NHS, childcare vouchers and mat leave

(18 Posts)
colleysmill Sun 17-Nov-13 19:00:30

Hi

Following a thread in chat I wondered if anyone could explain about claiming childcare vouchers before taking mat leave? It's not my thread but I am in a similar circumstance in that I haven't cancelled the vouchers for the weeks 17-25.

My HR pack says it effects statutory mat pay in terms of NI contributions. I can't recall what the amount you have to pay to qualify is and its not clear if I cancelled the vouchers now what effect, if any, this has on both the stat mat pay and nhs mat pay.

Many thanks

littlemonkey17 Sun 17-Nov-13 21:25:10

I had queried this with my NHS HR department recently. You are best phoning your HR department monday, they will have someone dedicated to childcare vouchers to explain this but I'll give it a go........

Your maternity pay (not sure if this is nhs mat pay or just statutory pay or both) is calculated on your pay between weeks 17 and 25 of pregnancy. If you claim childcare vouchers during this time your mat pay is calculated on your salary minus your vouchers. So they recommend to maximise your maternity pay you need to opt out of childcare vouchers before your 17week of pregnancy. You can then opt back in again after your 25week of pregnancy and continue with them after you go on maternity but not for the whole 9months, there is a cut off point.

If you have not opted out of the vouchers and you are more than 25weeks pregnant there is nothing you can do now, it means your maternity pay is calculated on your pay minus the amount you claim on childcare vouchers. If you are between weeks 17 and 25 then contact your HR department and you may get some more mat pay but not all. I got stung this way and am annoyed but trying to look at it positively that although my maternity pay is lower than expected I still got my savings in vouchers for weeks 17 to 25 of pregnancy.

It's so confusing but do speak with HR as they deal with this type of thing all the time.

Tiredemma Sun 17-Nov-13 21:27:48

CAn I ask a Q about them?

Im currently on maternity leave and due to go back in march. Can I make an application now for vouchers or do I have to wait until I go back?

colleysmill Sun 17-Nov-13 22:14:07

Oh lordy I fear I may have bobbed up entirely.

I'm 25 weeks this week and claim full 243 quid. But being on mat leave ds won't need to be in childcare whilst I'm off and will go to school in September 2014. I'm hoping to go back in Jan/Feb 15.

The info in my HR pack says very little about what happens if you are already claiming vouchers, like what happens if I cancel them when I start mat leave? How long are they valid for if I continue in the scheme.

I feel so naive. I thought I would just stop whilst I'm off and restart when I go back. I didn't realise it was so complicated.

Tryandguessthisonethen Sun 17-Nov-13 22:22:27

It's too late wrt calculating yourat leave pay.

Whilst you are on mat leave, you can continue to buy the vouchers each month if you wish and build them up like savings. Then when you go back, you'll have a bit of a buffer. I done this when off for dc2 and each month I would pay half my nursery fees from vouchers and half from salary. This kept me going until ds started school in September this year!

Your payroll dept should be able to help.....or ring computershare services themselves.

Do get proper advice before cancelling completely though as I think rules have changed and you might not be able to get them back. If you can't afford to buy the full amount whilst on mat leave, drop it to a nominal amount eh £10 or £20 which you can increase as it suits.

colleysmill Sun 17-Nov-13 22:30:17

Thank you!

I've checked my latest voucher - we are with kiddivouchers - which doesn't expire for years, I thought it only lasted 6 months for some reason.

I might keep claiming then and store them up for when I go back rather than opting out. It does say it can only be claimed for the setting named but what happens if you change your mind about which nursery or provider you want whilst off?

Tryandguessthisonethen Sun 17-Nov-13 22:36:47

You would have to speak to your voucher provider about that, but for mine, I just add a new carer (who is registered with them) and choose them instead.

Many companies pay for vouchers for you when you are on mat leave but the Nhs have ways and means of getting around that (or at least my trust do) so do make sure you speak to someone. I had all my salary & mat pay divided up equally for the 12months I was off which meant I always had enough to buy my voucher each month. It's certainly worth doing if you can afford to as it's such a help when you go back.

flowery Mon 18-Nov-13 05:53:25

You are entitled to your vouchers throughout maternity leave, and although deductions for these can be made from any occupational maternity pay you receive, they can't be made from the SMP element and the full amount of vouchers must be provided anyway, even if you are receiving SMP only or no pay at all. There is no cut off date and no way for your employer to get round it.

If you get decent enhanced maternity pay I would suggest not asking for it to be spread over 12 months because that way deductions for your vouchers can be made throughout. If you have a time on SMP only and/or unpaid, you will get essentially "free" vouchers for that period.

FadBook Mon 18-Nov-13 06:30:51

Is an interesting bit of employment law as in theory, a person shouldn't be disadvantaged when on maternity leave in relation to benefits.

I read a government document (think it was HMRC) over the summer which highlighted the problem of employees going on maternity who were already signed up for vouchers.

As Flowery said, you can't deduct voucher money from SMP. Equally, you can't remove the vouchers from the person.

This has resulted in some companies not offering vouchers because if you have 4 people off on maternity leave at any one time, it is a cost to a business (especially a small one)

Some Companies have got around this by paying the 'saving' from purchasing the vouchers to the employee but not the vouchers themselves (ie the tax and NI element). I have to agree that this is a clever way around this situation. It seems unfair that a pregant person should receive effectively 'free' vouchers, when in theory the 'benefit' of the vouchers is to save on tax and NI on a set amount.

I'll try and find the document at work today.

Tryandguessthisonethen Mon 18-Nov-13 07:23:32

That didn't wash with my NHS Trust and I was told I had no choice but to spread my mat leave pay over 12 months if I wanted to continue getting vouchers. They got very stroppy with me, and being 36 weeks of, I done what they told me angry

MrsSpencerReid Mon 18-Nov-13 07:30:31

My trust don't like you spreading your pay over 12m! This had the advantage that I'll get 6m of 'free' Childcare smile it's so confusing though, I didn't cancel mine as we use more than the full amount so I didn't see the point. Personally, I'd keep claiming them then maybe reduce once you're back at work?

flowery Mon 18-Nov-13 08:12:23

"That didn't wash with my NHS Trust and I was told I had no choice but to spread my mat leave pay over 12 months if I wanted to continue getting vouchers."

Well that was wrong unfortunately, and illustrates why you shouldn't rely on your own employer for advice on this. To be fair, it's entirely likely they didn't realise, as it's a bit of an anomaly really.

colleysmill Mon 18-Nov-13 08:33:48

I have been stewing on this overnight (I am blaming the pregnancy hormones, usually I'm quite calm and rational!) And I'm going to ring the trust's childcare service line this morning and maybe HR (different departments apparently) to clarify a few points.

I've checked the dates of my letters/emails and despite letting them know at 13 weeks I didn't receive this info until I was 18 weeks pregnant so it was already too late (like the poster in the chat thread). Money wise we will be ok as although I'm part-time I'm quite high up pointwise on a relatively high pay band and the nhs mat pay is pretty good.

But I'd like to be really clear in my mind if only to help other members of my team if they find themselves in the same boat.

flowery Mon 18-Nov-13 08:56:59

What information didn't you receive OP?

It's up to you to inform yourself and decide whether to cancel vouchers or not. If you are in a scheme that is flexible enough to allow you to cancel for a few weeks then go back in, then that would usually be the most financially advantageous arrangement, as SMP would be calculated based on a higher salary (don't know about occupational maternity pay as that's obviously dependent on policy) and you'd still get vouchers throughout maternity leave even if you aren't receiving enough occupational maternity pay to make the appropriate deductions.

But for many employees the scheme isn't that flexible anyway so they either have to stay in or opt out. For most, it will be more advantageous to stay in and keep getting the vouchers during maternity leave as free vouchers will often balance out any reduction in maternity pay that results from receiving vouchers during the qualifying period. Do your sums, and it's probably better for you to stay in, and keep getting vouchers.

But it's not up to your employer to advise you of any of this. They shouldn't obviously give you disinformation, or deny you your rights/ not pay out vouchers during leave, but you must work out for yourself what the best arrangement is for you.

colleysmill Mon 18-Nov-13 09:04:53

The bit about it the effect on your calculations on your earnings between 17-25 weeks pregnant, the HR pack didn't arrive until I was 20 weeks. I've just fished out my trust's family policy and to be fair it's in there so that's my error, I should have checked that but I just didn't realise.

I am annoyed at myself more than anything as usually I'm pretty savvy with these things and I've taken my eye off the ball.

If I can use them for childcare from 2015 I shall probably carry on claiming tbh and stay in the scheme.

DragonMamma Tue 19-Nov-13 07:31:03

As it's a salary sacrifice, they must continue to pay you the CCV whilst on maternity leave, without deducting the amount from SMP - basically free CCV. Ditto pension, we tell pregnant ladies not in a pension that we will make contributions whilst on mat leave, without any cost to them.

flowery Tue 19-Nov-13 08:34:48

No, not "ditto pension". Pension contributions can be taken from SMP. However if the employee and employer both pay, say 3% of salary into a pension, the employer must pay 3% of full salary, while the employee only has to pay 3% of what she is actually receiving at the time.

colleysmill Tue 19-Nov-13 18:36:54

I had a very long chat with our childcare advisory service who were very helpful and managed to explain it in terms of one syllable to me (being a little bit mushy brained at the moment) and also the voucher company.

I think I was getting confused with the stat pay and our occupational pay - on balance I am going to carry on with the scheme but decrease the amount I claim and accumulate those vouchers for when I go back ( which they confirmed I can do and transfer to another provider if I wish).

Thank you for all the advice

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