When women go on maternity leave, they are entitled to continue to receive all their existing rights and benefits, with the exception of pay. In The Commissioner of The City of London Police v Geldart, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that it was direct sex discrimination to fail to pay a serving police officer all her London Allowance for the whole of her maternity leave. 

Basic facts

Ms Geldart, a serving police officer, went on maternity leave for just over a year. During that time, she was paid full pay for 13 weeks, half pay for 10 weeks, no pay for 18 weeks and holiday pay for the last 13 weeks. During the period of full pay, she received her London Allowance in full, at half the rate when she received half pay but none at all when she received no pay.

This allowance, which was separate from London Weighting, was introduced to improve recruitment of police officers in London under Part 6 of the Police Regulations. Regulation 36 states that if an officer, who is regularly entitled to “an allowance to meet an expense which ceases during his or her absence from duty”, goes off sick or on maternity leave, they are entitled to receive the payment for a month, after which it is at the discretion of the chief officer.

Ms Geldart claimed that it was sex discrimination to fail to pay her the full amount of London Allowance throughout the period of her maternity leave. City of London Police argued that it simply reflected a practice whereby male and female officers received a reduced or no payment of London Allowance when they were on sick leave.

Tribunal decision

The tribunal disagreed, however, arguing that Ms Geldart had been treated in the way she had because she was on maternity leave which was direct sex discrimination, per se. 

The fact that police officers on sick leave also received a reduced allowance was irrelevant as it had been established in Webb v EMO Air Cargo (UK) Ltd that victims of direct sex discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity do not have to, nor indeed could they, prove that a man would have been treated differently.

City of London Police appealed, arguing that the tribunal had failed to consider that it had refused to pay Ms Geldart the allowance because she was absent from work, not because she was on maternity leave.

EAT decision

Upholding the tribunal’s decision, the EAT held that, as Ms Geldart remained a member of the City of London Police during her maternity leave, she was entitled to be paid the London Allowance unless regulation 36 or another regulation indicated otherwise.

Noting that the London Allowance was paid “with regard to location and retention needs”, it followed that it was not an allowance to which regulation 36 applied. Nor had the force identified any other regulation which stated that it should not be paid to an officer during her maternity leave, On the contrary, the regulations made clear that a member of the City of London Police force suspended under the Conduct Regulations was entitled to receive it.

It also agreed with the tribunal that it was clear from Webb that Ms Geldart did not have to prove that a male colleague would have been treated differently.

The EAT therefore concluded that Ms Geldart was entitled to receive the allowance throughout the entire period of her maternity leave.