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How to Manage Employee Maternity and Leave

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Pregnancy can be an exciting time of anticipation for both the employee and the employer. However, as an employer when your employee informs you that they are pregnant, there are steps you must take to ensure their rights are protected. So it’s important that you understand the legalities and procedures surrounding maternity.

In this article we explore everything you need to know to allow you to successfully manage the process from beginning to end.

Maternity Leave: Employers Checklist

  1. Offer congratulations and support: Let the employee know that you are happy for them and are available to offer any support they may need during their pregnancy.
  2. Discuss Antenatal Appointments: Pregnant employees can take reasonable paid time off during working hours for antenatal appointments, this may include relaxation classes or parenting classes if a GP, midwife or health visitor has requested.  
  3. Maternity leave entitlement: Inform the employee about their entitlement to maternity leave and pay. This includes up to 52 weeks of leave, with 39 weeks paid if they meet certain eligibility criteria.
  4. Plan for the employee’s absence: Discuss the employee’s plans for maternity leave and arrange for any necessary cover during their absence. You should also discuss the employee’s expected return date and any adjustments that may be needed when they return to work.
  5. Ensure health and safety measures are in place:  Using a Pregnancy Risk Assessment evaluate any risks to the employee’s health or safety and take appropriate steps to eliminate or reduce them. You may need to make adjustments to their working conditions, such as modifying their duties or providing suitable equipment. 
  6. Maintain confidentiality: Respect the employee’s privacy and keep their pregnancy confidential unless they give you permission to share the news.

Maternity Leave: Documents Employers must obtain and keep on file

  1. MAT B1 certificate: This is a certificate that confirms the pregnancy and the expected due date. The certificate is issued by a doctor or midwife and should be provided to the employer by the 20th week before the expected week of childbirth.
  2. Written notice of maternity leave: The employee must give their employer at least 28 days’ written notice of their intention to take maternity leave, including the start and end dates of their leave.
  3. Confirmation of the employee’s expected return date: The employee must give their employer at least eight weeks’ notice of their expected return date from maternity leave.

Maternity Pay

All employees who have been with their employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected date of childbirth are eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). The first 6 weeks will be at 90% of full pay regardless of what that amount is, The remaining 33 weeks will be paid at a rate of £172.48 per week or 90% of full pay if less than £172.48 per week; rates correct at April 2023.

Additionally, all pregnant employees are legally entitled to take up 52 weeks’ maternity leave – this can be taken as either one continuous period or two separate periods depending on individual circumstances. During this time, employers must continue paying into any occupational pension scheme that has been set up and must also provide health insurance cover throughout the duration of maternity leave.

Keeping in Touch (KIT) Days

KIT days are often overlooked by Employers but they can be a useful way for employees to stay connected with their workplace, maintain their skills and knowledge, and prepare for their return to work after their maternity leave. For employers, they can be a way to keep employees engaged and motivated, maintain continuity in their business, and ease the employee’s transition back to work.

KIT days are where an employee on maternity, paternity, or adoption leave can work for their employer without losing their entitlement to statutory pay. These days are optional, and the employee and employer must agree on them in advance.

During a KIT day, the employee may carry out work for the employer, attend meetings, training, or other events, or simply catch up with colleagues. However, they cannot be required to work, and there is no obligation on the employer to offer KIT days.

Employees on maternity, paternity, or adoption leave are entitled to up to ten KIT days, which are paid at the employee’s normal rate of pay. Any work done on a KIT day is in addition to the employee’s statutory leave entitlement and does not affect their right to take the full amount of leave they are entitled to.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Discrimination: The rights of pregnant women in the workplace are protected under the Equality Act 2010. Employers must not discriminate against employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave. This includes treating them unfairly, denying them opportunities or promotions, or making negative assumptions about their ability to perform their job.

Failure to make reasonable adjustments: This may include modifying working hours, providing additional equipment or support, or temporarily adjusting job duties.

Lack of communication: Regular communication must be maintained with pregnant employees to ensure that they are supported, informed, and involved in workplace decisions. This may include discussing maternity leave arrangements, keeping them informed about company developments, and making them aware of any new policies or procedures. It is important however to speak with the employee regarding any preferences they may have regarding keeping in touch.

Inadequate health and safety measures: Employers must conduct a risk assessment to identify any hazards that may affect pregnant employees and take appropriate steps to eliminate or reduce them. 

By providing support, communication, and reasonable adjustments, employers can ensure that their pregnant employees are able to work safely and feel supported throughout their pregnancy and maternity leave.

How to Ensure a Successful Return-to-work Process 

As an employer in the UK, supporting your employees through pregnancy and maternity leave is vital to ensure their wellbeing and maintain a positive working relationship.

Here are some tips on how to support your employees during this crucial time:

  1. Create an open and supportive environment: From the moment an employee informs you of their pregnancy, it is important to create an environment where they feel supported and valued. Encourage them to share any concerns or queries they have, and assure them that you are committed to ensuring their safety and wellbeing during their pregnancy and beyond. This will foster a positive working relationship and build trust between the employee and the employer.
  2. Conduct a pregnancy risk assessment: As an employer, you are required to conduct a risk assessment on the employee’s role to determine if any adjustments or modifications are required to keep them healthy and safe during their pregnancy. This may include providing them with additional support, such as a wrist rest or footstool, or adjusting their workload to prevent any unnecessary physical strain. Be proactive in identifying any issues and addressing them promptly to ensure the employee feels supported and comfortable.
  3. Be flexible: Maternity leave can be a challenging time for employees, and they may require some flexibility in terms of their working arrangements. Consider offering flexible working arrangements, such as reduced hours or remote working, to accommodate their needs. This will show your commitment to supporting your employees during this important time and will enable them to balance their work and family commitments more effectively.
  4. Provide regular updates: Throughout the maternity leave period, ensure that you maintain regular contact with the employee. This can be achieved through phone calls, emails or video conferences, to keep the employee informed of any changes or developments within the workplace. This will enable them to feel more connected to the workplace and will make their transition back to work smoother.

Support Your Employees Today

Supporting your employees through pregnancy and maternity leave is an important part of being an employer. It may seem daunting at first, but don’t feel overwhelmed; here at HR:4UK, we can ensure you have all the necessary information needed to navigate safely through the process of pregnancy at work. Contact us today so together we can ensure you get the process right.

Angela Clay

A qualified employment law solicitor and our managing director, Angela has unparalleled legal expertise and decades of experience and knowledge to draw from. She’s a passionate speaker and writer that loves to keep employers updated with upcoming changes to legislation, and is a regular guest speaker on BBC Leicester Radio.