Maternity leave affects most small businesses at some stage, and it is important to plan for it carefully and handle it sensitively. Handling it well can lead to greater staff satisfaction and motivation, while handling it poorly could lead to demotivated staff or possibly even discrimination claims.
The law around maternity, paternity and family leave has changed recently, and can be confusing. So what are the main rights of an expectant mother, and how should you handle it as an employer?
Pregnant employees are entitled to the following as part of their Maternity Leave:
- Up to 52 weeks off – with Statutory Maternity Pay
- The length of time they have worked for you does not affect how much maternity leave they can take, or how many hours they work
- They can start their leave up to 11 weeks prior to due date
- They are still subject to benefits of all normal terms and conditions of employment – job opportunities, pay rises, annual leave accrual etc.
- Time off for ante-natal appointments – only expected to be paid if they have valid reason
- Two weeks of compulsory leave following the birth
- ‘KIT’ days – They can have up to 10 “Keep in touch” days; these are not compulsory and taking them does not lose the right to Maternity pay
Your employee has to notify you of her pregnancy, by law, at least 15 weeks before the expected due date, giving you either an MATB1 form or other medical confirmation. The law requires you to acknowledge this within 28 days of receiving the notice, letting your pregnant member of staff know the expected return date.
Maternity leave is split into two periods:
- 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML)
- 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML)
- OML starts automatically should the pregnant employee leave work during the four weeks prior to the expected week due to illness
- If an employee wishes to return while on AML, she must give 8 weeks’ notice
Mothers are also eligible to share their parental leave, under the new scheme introduced for babies born on or after the 5th April 2015
An employee will qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay for a period of 39 weeks, and must:
- Be earning over £111 per week
- Have given you the necessary 15 week notice
- Have provided an MATB1 form or medical confirmation
- Have worked for you continuously for 26 weeks, up to the 15 week notice
The levels of pay are as follows:
- 90% of average weekly earnings for the first six weeks
- Whichever is lower out of 90% of weekly earnings or £139.58 per week – for the following 33 weeks
How we can help
We can help you comply with employment law and treat your staff fairly during this potentially tricky time in several ways:
- Phone our qualified HR consultants, who will be happy to answer all your questions and advise on any aspects you would like help on
- A Management Guide setting out simply and clearly what happens at every stage
- Our HR software can prompt you of what to do when throughout the process, and can store all the records you need efficiently
If you want to find out more about how our HR support service can help you, call 0333 444 0165 or request a call back today.
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