VIC Excluded from Bonus Payment After Maternity Leave?

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Laura Scott

21 August 2015
My company pays a discretionary annual bonus for the financial year July – June, it is calculated on cash available and profit in the company at 30th June.

I worked the full year up until 17th June 2014 prior to taking 12 months unpaid maternity leave. Bonuses were paid as usual in August to the two other team members but I was excluded without an explanation.

I returned to work on 1st June this year and obviously wasn’t expecting to receive a bonus payment for one month (even though I have received pro rata bonuses prior to this). My role prior to maternity leave was Financial Officer and I was responsible for the accounting/payearoll functions of the two businesses. However since my return to work, I helped tidy the business up and prepare the accounts for year-end audit, but I was conveniently told by my boss that the colleague who looked after this business while I was on maternity leave (she doesn’t have a finance background) would take over and I was moved on to a different project. This conveniently coincided with the bonus accrual being posted. I was hoping I would be paid this year for the bonus I missed while on maternity leave, but it would appear not as they were paid again to my two colleagues last week and I was excluded and I feel it has all been done very much in a “behind my back attitude”.

I will be raising this issue with my boss on his return from maternity leave, but know bonus payments are a grey area. Just after some employment law help as to where I stand on this matter as I feel as though I am completely being excluded from a team environment because I am the only part-time employee at the company with a young family.

Any help would be appreciated.


Hi Laura, I'm not an expert in employment law, but I can say that discretionary bonuses are difficult, because they are just that: discretionary. They would be based on the company's own policies as well, which would most likely be drafted to give them as much discretion as possible. So I guess the crux of your argument is not so much payment of the bonus, but unfair or potentially discriminatory treatment since your two colleagues received it but you didn't - because you were on maternity leave.

There is protection under state and Commonwealth anti-discrimination regimes for women returning to work after pregnancy. I would discuss this with your employer and express to them that you feel you have been discriminated against as a result of your maternity leave. See what they say. If you wish to take it further you could go to the Fair Work Ombudsman and see what they can do for you.