So, your employee is pregnant and wants to take maternity leave. Firstly – don’t panic! Check your organisation’s documents for relevant maternity policies – this is sometimes part of a Family Handbook. Stick to the statutory regulations if you don’t have one.
Notification of pregnancy
Once your employee has notified you that she is pregant, carry out a risk assessment. The HSE website provide detailed advice and a template that you can use. Special measures must be taken if the assessment finds that there is a risk to the expectant mother or her child.
Ask for a copy of the MATB1 – normally given to the employee around the 25th
week of pregnancy. This document gives you the expected date of childbirth – referred to as the EWC or expected week of confinement. The employee will need to provide this to you if she intends to claim Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).
Pregnant employeesc can take ‘reasonable’ paid time off to attend antenatal care. Fathers and partners of pregnant women can take unpaid time off to attend two ante-natal appointments (capped at six and a half hours for each appointment).
Eligibility for SMP or Maternity Allowance
In order to qualify for SMP an employee will need to have:
- worked for you continuously for 26 weeks by the end of the qualifying week (QW) i.e. 15 weeks before EWC; and
- earned at least the ‘lower earnings limit’ (LEL) on average in the calculation period i.e. the eight weeks ending with the last payslip before the end of the qualifying week). The LEL for 2019-2020 is £118 per week. This will usually be two month’s payslips, or if paid weekly, eight weeks of payslips.
She will still be entitled to maternity leave and may be able to claim Maternity Allowance if not eligible for SMP.
Once you have established the entitlement, confirm rights to maternity leave, pay and benefits in writing within 28 days.
It’s a good idea to meet face to face to outline her rights and just touch base on how she is feeling and finding work in general. Note that non-pay benefits will continue throughout the leave period – including holiday allowance accrual. Discuss how the accrued holiday will be managed, often women like to ‘tag’ this on to the end of maternity leave giving an extra period of paid leave.
All pregnant employees are entitled to a year’s maternity leave, some of the leave can be transferred to an employee’s partner – referred to as Shared Parental Leave.
Your employee has the right to return to work, so do ensure that any cover you arrange is on a fixed term basis!
Leave can start at any point from the 11th
week before the EWC up until the baby is due. If the baby is born early, maternity leave starts immediately. If the employee is absent from work due to an illness relating to pregnancy within 4-weeks of the EWC, maternity leave will automatically begin.
Dontractual terms and conditions continue to apply in maternity leave and employees are protected against unfair dismissal or detrimental treatment in relation to maternity leave.
Contact during leave
It’s a good idea to agree with your employee contact you will have throughout leave. Contact should be ‘reasonable’ so calling her every week might be overkill!
Up to ten keeping-in-touch (KIT) days can be agreed and worked without losing entitlement to maternity pay.
When it doesn’t go to plan
It’s heart-breaking when a pregnancy does not go to plan and results in a still birth. If your employee’s baby is still born or dies after 24 weeks of pregnancy, full statutory rights still apply. It’s an extremely traumatic time and can be difficult to manage. Be led by your employee with regard to how much contact she would like. The charity, Tommy’s gives some great advice on how you can best support your employee at this difficult time.
Returning to work
The employee does not need to give notice is she plans to return to work on the date originally agreed. If she decides not to return to work, she needs to give notice in line with the contract of employment. To return earlier than planned, she must give 8 weeks’ notice.
Do ensure that you inform the rest of the team that their colleague is returning to work. It’s a good idea to spend the first morning running through any changes that occurred whilst the employee was absent from work and introducing her to new staff who have joined in the previous year.
If you are considering making changes to working arrangements during leave, do take advice
Further rights that apply to working families include: adoption leave; shared parental leave; paternity leave; parental leave; flexible working.
If you have any questions relating to maternity leave and pay, please give us a call!
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