back to article BT staffers fear new mums could be hit disproportionately by car allowance change

A number of female staff at BT that take maternity leave could be disproportionately affected by plans to remove car allowances from certain employees. Under BT's People Framework, which includes a shake-up of pay and grading structures, some members of staff will no longer be eligible for car allowance as their job titles are …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT taking money out of their employee's pockets to cover the black hole created by chasing football TV rights.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Evidence?

      Is there any?

    2. Graham 25

      BY stopping funding car use to allow people to make the best choice of how they get to and from work rather than drive ?

      I am quite surprised anyone except the typical travelling salesmen would actually get a car these days.

      1. Steevee

        I had a "car allowance" as part of my pay package while working for a company in London. They just automatically gave you the money, and when I asked what would happen if I wanted an actual car, they were a little surprised, as 99% of staff took the money, then applied to general travel costs such as season tickets. In fact the only person I ever met there who did go for the car option, was a young lad who cleverly used the system for the insurance (included in the deal), AND build his NCD at the same time.

      2. julian_n

        Have you ever tried to get to BT Adastral Park, say from Sudbury. I have - it's 3 trains and a bus (the Super 66!) to replace one car trip and an extra two hours travelling. Luckily only in one direction!

    3. gnarlymarley Bronze badge

      BT taking money out of their employee's pockets...

      I guess I don't fully understand as the USA doesn't have "car allowances", but we do have a fuel coverage where we have to submit our driven miles. It makes sense for the company not to pay for driven miles if the employee is on leave. (AKA, not driving for the company.) Good to hear the company is correcting their mistake. Hopefully, there are not too many people that are going to be bitter about BT paying too much in the past and now BT is really going to pay them what it should have been.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah... About that BT...

    They published it a year ago then completely ignored protests and challenges.

    Its even worse if your in the EE arm since its already been pushed through.

  3. myxiplx2

    Hold on a second

    So they're getting 18 weeks off at full pay, AT A HIGHER RATE THAN BEFORE, followed by another 8 weeks at half pay, again at a higher rate, and are still complaining that they're losing out on their car allowance after that?

    That deal doesn't strike me as massively unfair, and do they really feel entitled to a car allowance from their employer after not using it for business purposes for half a year?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Hold on a second

      >So they're getting 18 weeks off at full pay, AT A HIGHER RATE THAN BEFORE, followed by another 8 weeks at half pay, again at a higher rate, and are still complaining that they're losing out on their car allowance after that?

      Depends if the total higher rate of pay is greater than what they previously got in annual car allowance; I suspect total pay and benefits package under the new deal is significantly less generous, especially for those on lower pay rates.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Hold on a second

        But why would you pay a car allowance to someone on maternity leave? They are not doing any travelling for the company.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hold on a second

          >>But why would you pay a car allowance to someone on maternity leave?

          Because it's part of the package.

          The only people who really need a company car are people with a work's van.

          For everyone else it's pretty much a perk.

          At one place I worked the field guys had company cars and still flew and then hired cars for many trips. (3-4 hour drive.)

          One guy didn't even have a driving licence but still got the car allowance and then did all travel by plane, train (expensed) or begged lifts. Go figure.

        2. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Hold on a second

          >But why would you pay a car allowance to someone on maternity leave?...

          Well it might surprise you there are other times that companies will continue to pay car allowances:

          People on paternity leave, garden leave and serving periods that don't demand attendance (eg. long-term sick leave, notice or disciplinary).

        3. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: Hold on a second

          They are not working for the company either, so why pay them a salary?

          Your HP lender and insurance company still want paying when you ate pregnant.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Hold on a second

      How do you work that out?

      They are already 15% down along with everyone else, then massively more if they drop to statutory instead of statutory + car allowance.

      Your assumption that people get car allowances because they are travelling for work is probably wrong. Its very common to include car allowance as a simple way of increasing salary.

      Why should they be punished far more than anyone else just because they are on maternity leave?

      1. Cederic Bronze badge

        Re: Hold on a second

        Because they've already had over 4 months off work on full pay and have legal protections guaranteeing them a job when they do eventually decide to stop sponging off the taxpayer.

        Who else is being punished like that? I'll take those term!

        1. MrMerrymaker Bronze badge

          Re: Hold on a second

          Sponging off the taxpayer? Oh you're one of those bastards with warped priorities.

          I'm on the dole. I'm going to go the bank and withdraw a tenner from YOUR SPECIFIC TAX CONTRIBUTION and buy booze from Aldi! :)

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hold on a second

          I'm not sure which nation state you are from.

          But you need to do you homework on UK law.

          In a modern society we protect our residences and our young to give them a great start in life.

          It called investing in the future :)

        3. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Hold on a second

          "when they do eventually decide to stop sponging off the taxpayer."

          Which would be themselves, as you can only get parental pay if you are a taxpayer.

      2. The Nazz Silver badge

        Re: Hold on a second

        If, as you allude, they are not and do not travel during the course of their work, and most likely never have nor ever will, wouldn't a simpler way of increasing their salary be to just increase their salary?

        And where is there any element of "punishment"? And if so, isn't it self-inflicted punishment?

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Hold on a second

          "wouldn't a simpler way of increasing their salary be to just increase their salary?"

          If you've ever seen the number of hoops that need to be jumped through and paperwork that needs to be filled out _every single fucking year_(*) if you decide someone in the rank and file is actually worth paying more, then you'll understand why it's sidestepped with allowances.

          (*) And if you can't justify these reasons each year to TPTB, then that person's salary is simply slashed back to basics, which results in a better than 50:50 chance of them walking - not good when they're critical staff named on your DR plan (and yes, this HAS happened)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hold on a second

      Car loans don't take a break for maternity leave.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Hold on a second

        >Car loans don't take a break for maternity leave.

        Applies to individuals as much as companies.

        At the various places I worked, there was typically llittle/no cost saving to be had in taking a car off someone before the lease expired, it was deemed an overhead having unassigned company cars lurking in car parks.

    4. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Hold on a second

      Still lower than previous maternity pay + full car allowance

  4. macjules Silver badge

    And where is Prospect when all this is going on?

    One would have thought that the union that demands such a high contribution from BT management and clerical staff might actually weigh in and represent them on such a case as this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And where is Prospect when all this is going on?

      Busy sending out strange magazines.

      I'm ex-BT and still a Prospect member. I understand it's now BECTU and there is a Communications and Digital bit of that for BT employees but for some reason I get Stage Screen and Radio...

  5. Commswonk Silver badge

    WTF?

    Prior to the proposed changes, employees received their full car allowance throughout maternity leave.

    Unless I have completely misunderstood all this employees who are not at work by virtue of being on maternity leave currently receive a car allowance.

    For what, FFS? Anywhere I have worked the car allowance was so much per mile when the car was used on duty, and no payments were available for non - duty journeys, and certainly not when on leave.

    I now feel that I was being cheated for all those years...

    1. Terry Barnes

      Re: WTF?

      In this instance the allowance is paid if someone entitled to a company car as a perk chooses not to have one. It’s not about using a car for work or business travel. It’s part of an employee’s package.

  6. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    A clear case of 'Be There'

    or get hit financially.

  7. iron Silver badge
    Devil

    If you are on maternity / paternity / adoption leave then you are not travelling to work. So you don't need any car allowance.

    A car allowance is for spending on work related travel, not a couple of extra grand to spend on whatever you like.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      I agree with your sentiments, but the car allowance is typically going to be used to pay to own a car. Just because you're on maternity doesn't mean you no longer have to pay your car loan.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I agree with your sentiments, but the car allowance is typically going to be used to pay to own a car. Just because you're on maternity doesn't mean you no longer have to pay your car loan"

        Might be different in other parts of the BT empire, but I do not know a single person who truly treats the car allowance that way, It's talked about as a salary bump and treated as if it were salary, whether you choose to spend it on a car or whether you do something else with it.

        BT are just normalising that behaviour. Personally I'd rather have it locked in as salary (and therefore becoming pensionable and bonus eligible) than a perk the company can remove or change at any time.

        I guess it'll just have to be another factor that goes into whether someone can afford to have a child.

        1. aks Bronze badge

          It's a typical UK fudge to place some benefits outside of income tax and NI. HMRC have removed most of the advantage of such schemes.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >It's a typical UK fudge to place some benefits outside of income tax and NI.

            Its slightly more fudged:

            Some benefits are exempt from NI and income tax

            Some are just exempt from NI

            Some are just exempt from Income tax.

            And some (subject to both NI and income tax) an employer may offer because they (may) represent good value (eg. gym membership, or store vouchers at a 10~20% discount).

            One of the things I liked about flex-benefits was that it clarified the differing rules and exemptions.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          " Personally I'd rather have it locked in as salary (and therefore becoming pensionable and bonus eligible) "

          Which is why BT _don't_ want it locked in.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Which is why BT _don't_ want it locked in."

            It was among the first changes that they announced without union consultation, so if they really didn't want it they hid it very well...

            The actual shifty bit is that people promoted into the new, roughly equivalent grade (whether transferred or change of job) don't get the car allowance or health insurance.

      2. e^iπ+1=0

        Bigger problem

        Surely the "£145.18 a week, or 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings – whichever is lower" is a bigger problem?

        I realise that is probably statutory; in an ideal world the maternity leave pay would not be that low. Which ideal world, I hear you ask? Well, at least certain parts of Scandinavia.

        Disclaimer: As a BT shareholder I understand the company's choice here.

        1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Bigger problem

          As a BT shareholder where is your non-confidence vote in the board and management that put BT in its current position where it has to hand out significant pay cuts to loyal staff?

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Bigger problem

          "in an ideal world the maternity leave pay would not be that low. "

          If you read the article properly you'll see that's the level that kicks in after an extended period.

          Of course it's not ideal, but it's nowhere near as USAian as depicted.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not in this case - an employee entitled to a company car as a perk can choose instead to have an equivalent cash payment. That’s the allowance being described.

  8. Starace Silver badge
    Alert

    Could be worse

    They're complaining that the extra money they get instead of a company car allowance they're no longer entitled to is somehow a problem because in certain circumstances it goes away with the rest of their salary?

    Just think, they could have just lost the car allowance and got nothing at all.

    I'm also struggling to understand exactly what the proposed solution would be?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe I am being dense but if someone is not working and therefore not using their car for work why do they feel entitled to a car allowance at all?

    Oh right, must be sexism. Or something.

    1. Jemma Silver badge

      Slow simple explanation.

      If I am entitled to a company car I have two choices if I work for BT.

      I get a company car

      Or

      I choose to take salary in liu (sp?) and buy and run my own vehicle and this payment is for that.

      People may choose to tell BT to F off for many reasons - they want to get an electric or a hybrid or need specialist adaptions for injuries or disabilities which I very much doubt will be covered by the typical BT management cretins and the lease company uber cretins.

      This will typically be a *lot* of money and a little bit of of maternity leave butt kissing for a couple of weeks is in no way going to cover for it. Try £5-10k pulled from your total package.

      This is effectively Breach of Contract for every person this affects on the part of BT and since (God alone knows why) working for BT often runs in families - this may affect more than one person in an average family.

      That make it a little clearer?

      I worked in Adastral Park and I won't deal with BT ever again. I wouldn't work for them for a £million a month and I certainly wouldn't trust them as far I could throw them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Slow simple explanation.

        It sounds like you didn't work for BT but worked for a supplier to BT.

        The default position with the car allowance is that you get cash unless you choose to take a car - which is arranged via BT's fleet arm and by all accounts the deals aren't as good as you could get elsewhere (or you may wish to buy / PCP your own, or simply keep the old banger or stay on the bike and pocket the cash).

        It is indeed a fixed amount regardless of whether or not you have a disability, and regardless of salary, though I'm not sure why you're railing on that as much as you seem to be. There are going to be disabled people at BT who do not receive a car allowance at all since it only exists for certain management grades, those with "job needs" simply get a company issued car.

        "and since (God alone knows why) working for BT often runs in families" - probably because, in the grand scheme of things, BT is not that bad to work for. I say this as someone who once worked for a major BT supplier (though had nothing to do with BT projects) - BT is a *massive* step up - and I guess the children of those employees like the fact they can do something technical yet live with parents to save up for a house deposit (though many apprentices seem to have nicer cars than most of us). Not many tech jobs in Suffolk.

        1. NeilPost Bronze badge

          Re: Slow simple explanation.

          BT was actually pretty good to work for - even though I and many thousands weren’t fortunate enough to be on the Reward Framework scheme being an acquisition.

          A bit bureaucratic and overly procedural - I remember the cancer of ‘Mandatory Training coming around every year.

          I indeed got a bottom £4,500 car allowance based on my job- which as outside the reward framework did not increase ever.

          It was pretty good until they sold my ass off as part of the see-saw cycle between ‘core business refocus’ and diversification into growth area’s. I was in a Business Solutions semi-autonomous division which included Dabs.com and BT Fleet. We were tossed out to the American Software house we were the EU reseller and systems integrator for.

      2. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Slow simple explanation.

        I wouldn't work for them for a £million a month

        I would.

    2. TomTom123456789

      As others have said if you were of a certain grade within BT you got a company car allowance. Depending on banding this could be a fair chunk of money (albeit non-pensionable) per month.

      This is actually unfair because as far as I understand as the regrading sits if you took the car itself you get to keep it for some time (might be until the scheduled hand back time) despite losing the benefit. However if you took the money and probably used it to buy something better as the company apparently didn't get particularly good deals compared to ones available to the public, you should get 85% of the value of your allowance added to your salary.

      So there's now the situation where pregnant women who took the car get to keep the benefit and those who took the money lost out.

      That being said it was the more senior bands (ie people managers) that got the company cars. Technical managers (ie people not engineers but no actual managers) were usually graded lower and are the ones that are getting the pay CUTS in genuine salary rather than the people managers who are getting pay rises or freezes.

      No comment on Prospect but you do wonder what banding the company reps are getting.....

  10. Mookster

    Does this mean that they get to keep the company car during maternity leave? At least here, in Finland, they take the car away...

    1. TomTom123456789

      It depends on the type of company car - here they're talking about a company car as a perk on top of salary for higher band managers not a business use car.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        In this case they're talking about the cash allowance if you choose not to take the company car that you can use to buy and run your own car. So it's not BT's car, it's the employee's.

        The company car here is a standard part of the package and offered as a perk, not because it's required for the work. It's a way to increase the employee's salary and was probably written into the contracts when it had a tax benefit for BT to structure the employee's total compensation that way.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Which makes the 85% effectively a pay cut on their previous total compensation for -all- employees.

          It's just even more pronounced on parents taking maternity (or paternity) leave.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            >Which makes the 85% effectively a pay cut

            The addition of the allowance to basic salarly means it will now be included in pension and bonus calculations. In theory this makes up for the missing 15%. In practice this remains to seen.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "The company car here is a standard part of the package and offered as a perk, not because it's required for the work. It's a way to increase the employee's salary and was probably written into the contracts when it had a tax benefit for BT to structure the employee's total compensation that way."

          That's the bit that puzzles me. I have a company car because it's essential to my job. But I still get taxed extra because I get to use it for private use outside of work. But people who get a company car and don't really need get taxed significantly more because it's purely a perk and not essential to their job. At least that's how I thought it worked. Does having a non-essential company car (or car allowance) actually benefit the recipient all that much in reality?

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            >Does having a non-essential company car (or car allowance) actually benefit the recipient all that much in reality?

            As far as HMRC are concerned there is no difference between essential or non-essential company cars, both are treated as 'perks'.

            The tax/financial value of a particular car is its notional tax value, if memory serves me correctly for some reason BMW's and Mercedes had a significantly lower 'perk' tax value compared to their retail price and hence were worth having. Whereas Fords and Vauxhalls the 'perk' tax value was closer to the retail price.

            However, the real benefit of the company car is the service delivered by fleet admin/leasing company: The company pays for the servicing, tyres etc. the company provides a replacement in event of breakdown/accident/servicing, delivered to a place convenient to you. If the company/lease is really good the car is collected from your place of work and taken to be serviced etc. I also quite happily gave the keys to the company car to the valet parking at Heathrow and was unconcerned about leaving it in station car parks etc.where it might get bumped etc.

            The other benefit is mileage, when you are doing a large private mileage, its nice not to have to worry about depreciation.

            The only real downsides are:

            1. When you have to give it back and having to make arrangements to get home without it, followed by living between jobs without a company car or getting an 'expensive' hire car.

            2. When you decide to get your own car and have to insure it, many insurance companies will not give a no claims discount credit for the years you had a company car.

            I suspect that for many couples, having one spending car allowance on a 'proper' company car (if they actually do a significant amount of business miles) and the other taking the car allowance as cash to run a cheap about town car, makes financial sense; hence why this particular change by BT will have such a big impact.

  11. The Nazz Silver badge

    Size of the problem?

    FFS how many company cars are genuinely required at BT? 1 in 5,000 staff?

    1. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: Size of the problem?

      Much of it is a awnioritu/grade think. Much as your NHS manager or Tesco store manager will get a Co Car as part of their package.

      Many do need some amount of Customer/supplier travel.

  12. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Hold on, the car allowance is to pay people to use their own car to get to work. If you're on maternity leave, by definition, you're not going to work.

    1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      How many times is this little lightbulb going to go on?

      And yet again the answer is: if I use my own car for work, I get a car allowance. If i am off on maternity leave, I get the allowance because I'm still paying off my car, and it it probable that I got the car solely for my job. I was expected to incur the cost and risk, and they promised to pay for some of its use, and now they are reducing that payment.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How many times is this little lightbulb going to go on?

        You get the allowance because your job grade offers it as a perk. It isn't a given that you used it to get a car through BT, and you don't have to spend the cash equivalent on a car.

        It's salary in all but name.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: How many times is this little lightbulb going to go on?

        My employer doesn't pay me to ****OWN********* my car, they only pay me to ************USE************* it to get to work. ******BUYING********* the car comes out of my salary, ********NOT********** out of my employer's pocket.

      3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: How many times is this little lightbulb going to go on?

        To make it clear, you get your car allowance TO. GO. TO. WORK..

  13. The Basis of everything is...
    Holmes

    Company car is a company tax dodge

    My last few employers gave me the choice of a company car allowance or a company car. It then turned out they had included the company car allowance in the overall flex package so it wasn't extra cash as such.

    The kicker is that if you're "entitled" to a company car or allowance, you can only claim 10p - 12p / mile. The company also avoids paying employer national insurance on the part of your salary they've decided is car allowance so funnily enough virtually everyone got this car allowance. You'd be surprised how many didn't bother to reclaim the income tax on the difference between what was paid in mileage and the 45p/mile the tax man says you can have. When doing several thousand miles a year that soon adds up.

    Current employer is either unaware of the fine arts of corporate tax avoidance, or just can't be bothered. We get 45p/mile and no messing.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Company car is a company tax dodge

      Car allowance is normal salary as far as Phillip Hammond is concerned.

      You could claim 33-35p per mile as a tax deduction on it to make it up from the company car mileage rate to the own car mileage rate, but that only reduces your tax, not your NI.

      Tax rules in this area change frequently, it may have been different when you received it.

  14. ridley

    I am not going to comment on the rights or wrongs of company car allowances but I do wonder how BT are getting this practice past the EA2010.

    Isn't thus a practice that puts a protected characteristic ie pregnancy at a disadvantage and is therefore illegal?

    1. SloppyJesse

      Equalities Act

      Not really.

      Before this change everyone receiving a car allowance is getting a better deal when statutory maternity pay kicks in than those that only get basic pay.

      After this change it is exactly the same situation, except some people that were in group A are now in group B.

      They're not changing how they treat people, just which ones are in which situation.

      Seems to me the underlying unfairness is that those on basic pay move to a statutory amount whilst those on pay+perks get statutory+perks.

  15. Alastair
    Headmaster

    Benefits continue even when on maternity

    From https://maternityaction.org.uk/advice/discrimination-during-maternity-leave-and-on-return-to-work/:

    "Under the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 employees are entitled to all their terms and conditions of employment, apart from remuneration, during ordinary and additional maternity leave. This means employees are entitled to continue to accrue benefits such as paid annual leave during 52 weeks maternity leave."

    Having said that, it doesn't seem to be 100% clear whether something which is effectively a cash benefit should be counted as "remuneration" or a benefit. It's possible that BT were being more generous than they needed to be prior to this change, but with the car benefit being rolled into salary, it's pretty clear that it counts as remuneration & as such would not be paid during maternity leave.

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