A NEW mum has spoken of her upset at discovering days after her baby was born that she was not entitled to paid maternity leave from her employer.

Elske Carels-Watson, from Chineham, started working at Busy Bees Nursery, in Hanmore Road, Chineham, in December last year as an early years educator.

The 24-year-old found out she was pregnant in January, informing her manager soon after, and claims that she was assured that she would receive maternity pay of six weeks at 90 per cent, followed by statutory maternity pay.

Elske was planning to continue working for as long as possible into her pregnancy, before taking shared leave with her partner from August 22, a week before her daughter was due. But she decided to finish work on August 15, because the hours were becoming too much.

However, her waters broke on August 12 and her daughter Chloe Madeleine was born in the early hours of August 15.

She said: “After being in hospital several days we were then discharged and I was looking forward to getting home and beginning our new life as a family.

“Unfortunately when I arrived home from the hospital I was faced with a letter from head office of Busy Bees informing me I was not entitled to maternity pay.

“Exhausted from having a baby I fell in tears.”

The mother-of-one then had to set about filling in forms to secure maternity pay from the Government, and said she has lost out around £1,000 which she was expecting to receive from her employers.

Elske said this has resulted in a financial strain and extra stress at a time when she is adjusting to becoming a new mum.

“I felt my joy for my new baby girl couldn’t be fulfilled as I had this dread to overcome,” she said.

Elske said she asked to discuss the matter with her manager, who told her that she had only just found out as well and directed her to HR.

She said: “This has had a huge effect on me financially and means I now miss out on over £1,000. I am still waiting to hear from the Government as I had no idea I was going to be in this predicament and the application can take up to a month even to hear about a decision. This has now affected my rent which is now due.”

The new mum was planning to return to work after three months, but said she felt forced into quitting her job.

She added: “They don’t value me so I don’t want to go back. I enjoyed working there.”

Busy Bees is disputing Elske’s allegations, and claims it did not offer any advice regarding maternity pay until after the baby was born because it did not receive proof of pregnancy until August.

It confirmed that Elske informed the company that she was pregnant in January.

But she is not entitled to maternity pay from Busy Bees because she had not worked for the company for long enough.

A spokesman said: “We are aware that a former member of staff has alleged that she was offered inaccurate advice on maternity pay. Having looked into this situation, reviewed documents and spoken with management and staff at the nursery we are confident in saying that this was not the case.

“From the point she informed us of her pregnancy in January she was actively supported at work in many ways. All the relevant information was provided within the appropriate timeframes and in the appropriate way according to well established procedures.

“Busy Bees values the contributions of all those who work at their nurseries whatever role they play in helping to deliver the excellent childcare we provide. Ensuring that all our staff are supported at work and receive their full entitlements is an important part of demonstrating our commitment to them for the work they do.”