While most mums-to-be are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) when they have a baby, some employers offer an additional Occupational Maternity Pay (OMP) to those who meet certain criteria.

OMP packages are at employer discretion and often require you to return to work for a certain time period – which is not always possible if your soldier is posted and you have to move before the end of your maternity leave.

Harriet (main photo) is a teacher who found herself in this position. She explains: “I was working at an academy school when I found out that I was pregnant. I followed the required procedures and was eligible for the OMP.” However, shortly after her baby was born, Harriet’s husband was posted at short notice and she was unable to return to work for the required 12 weeks to keep her OMP.

“I explained the situation to my HR manager and my OMP payments were stopped. It was frustrating because I had earned that OMP, but because of my husband’s military commitments, I was being financially disadvantaged.”

Harriet contacted AFF’s Employment & Training Specialist, Jenna Richardson, for advice. “Unfortunately, the academy was not a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant. If the school had still been under local authority control, her situation may have been assessed more sympathetically due to the local authority’s own Armed Forces Covenant pledge,” says Jenna.

In some cases, it may be possible to retain your SFA so you can fulfil your OMP commitment, but for various reasons this was not a viable option for Harriet’s family.

Even though the local authority and MP Johnny Mercer, threw their weight behind Harriet’s case, the academy still failed to acknowledge her disadvantage and refused to reconsider.

Jenna adds: “This is an issue that the Armed Forces Covenant team is working to address.

“We were hopeful that the Armed Forces Bill would protect more spouses in this situation as it enshrines the Armed Forces Covenant in UK law, but the disappointingly limited reach of this legislation doesn’t extend to independent businesses. This means that academies are not bound to support military spouses who find themselves in this situation.”

Harriet is continuing her mission to encourage academies to be more supportive of military family members and is still engaging with various government departments to try to bring about change. She says: “I have accepted that it may be too late for me to get the maternity package that I was entitled to, but if I can help other military spouses in the future then that’s what I intend to do.”

Statutory Maternity Pay

Some of you have also been in touch with AFF after losing your entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). To be entitled to SMP you need to have been employed with your employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before birth – which equates to 40 weeks before your baby is due. Basically, you will have already started your job before you became pregnant. It means that anyone moving during pregnancy is at risk of missing out on SMP. You can view the full eligibility criteria for SMP via gov.uk and maternityaction.org.uk has some useful guidance.

If you’ve faced any of these issues or are worried you might miss out on maternity pay of any sort, get in touch at employment@aff.org.uk.

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