Maternity Leave: Your Options As An Employer

When small businesses on an employee, bosses accept there will be challenging times ahead. You must change your way whole way of thinking, prepare for short-term absences and cover holidays; but nothing will prepare for the two words all bosses fear the most: “I’m Pregnant” as they’re usually suffixed by two other terrifying words “Maternity Leave!”
For some employers, the idea of maternity leave puts them in a spin; not knowing how they will cope especially with the cost. I remember a General Manager removing one particular chair from his office because whenever a female member of staff sat on it for a week – they all told him they were pregnant. Three members of his team – all pregnant within weeks of each other!
Maternity Leave is a statutory employee benefit but before you go down that road, let’s explore your other options. Baby Steps, as they say! So I hope that the following advice will at least help stop the room from spinning for a short time.

Antenatal Care

Before you even think of maternity leave, all pregnant employees are entitled to a reasonable amount of paid time off to attend antenatal care such as doctor’s appointments, check-ups and classes. Don’t forget that the word reasonable means there is ample travel time.

Points to note:

Apart from the first appointment, Managers are allowed to see the appointment card or letter. Make sure you do so that you can plan around appointments where necessary.
Also, an expectant father or partner of a pregnant woman has the right to take time off work to go to 2 antenatal appointments

Statutory Leave

 All pregnant employees have the right to 52 weeks Maternity Leave. That doesn’t mean that they have to take the full 52 weeks but there is a legal minimum.
All employees must take at least 2 weeks leave following the birth, or 4 weeks if the employee is a factory worker.
Maternity Leave is split into two parts. 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave. If an employee decides to take additional maternity leave then they are not guaranteed to return to the same job but something similar.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) vs Maternity Allowance

Depending no how long the pregnant employee has worked for you along with how much they earn decides if they get SMP or Maternity AllowanceThe good news is employers can claim back at least 92% of the Statutory Maternity Pay. In some cases that figure can be as high as 103%. Make sure you get some advice on this and claim back what you can.
SMP is paid directly from the employer to the employee like a wage, whereas Maternity Allowance is claimed via the benefits officeClick here to find out the latest statutory payment rates.

Risk Assessments

Make sure you conduct regular risk assessments on your pregnant employee. Your pregnant employee’s needs will differ from industry to industry and business to business as, of course, an office and a factory will raise different risk factorsAfter maternity leave is over, don’t forget a Risk Assessment when the employee returns to work, especially if they wish to express milk at work.

During Maternity Leave

During Maternity leave, employees get all their normal terms and conditions of employment apart from wages.

Also, holidays can be transferred from one year to the next and an employee keeps on accruing holiday during maternity leave. Don’t get caught out on this one. 

Redundancy For Pregnant Employees On Maternity Leave

It is a myth that employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave cannot be put at risk of redundancy. However, managers need to ensure that they are conducting a fair and transparent redundancy process. It would be good to get some advice to make sure you are doing everything to protect yourself and your employees.

In Summary:

Use the Golden Rule; always put yourself in your employee’s shoes and if something doesn’t feel fair or reasonable when applied to yourself, well… it probably isn’t.
PS Don’t forget apart from all this admin to wade through your employee is pregnant and it should be a happy time so don’t forget the cake!
If you need any advice on maternity leave or pregnancy, don’t hesitate to contact me on [email protected]
Unfortunately, my HR consultancy does not include to explaining the birds and bees!

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