So you have a member of staff who is due to go on maternity leave. What do you need to know? In this article we break down the key elements you should be aware of.
Maternity leave vs Maternity pay
One thing that often confuses employers is the different time periods that are used to measure maternity leave and maternity pay. Maternity leave is split into 2 periods; Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and Additional Maternity Leave (AML). Both periods last for 26 weeks and are broadly the same, with the exception of what role you get when you return.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get:
- 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
- £148.68 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.
Once the employee reaches 20 weeks into their pregnancy, they will receive a MATB1 form from their midwife. This form must be sent to the employer in order for SMP to be payable. Whilst the employee doesn’t have to notify you ahead of this point, you can not conduct a maternity risk assessment until they do so. In higher risk roles such as Manufacturing, this can cause issues and therefore your policy may dictate that the employee must notify you as soon as they are aware that they are pregnant so that they can be moved to different duties (if required).
Time off to attend ante-natal appointments
Employees are entitled to paid time off during normal working hours to receive ante-natal care. Ante-natal care can include medical examinations, relaxation classes and parent-craft classes as advised by a medical practitioner. Paid time off should be provided for any time spent travelling to and from these appointments, including any waiting time. You can ask for proof of the ante-natal classes if you wish.
Starting maternity leave
Maternity leave can start up to 11 weeks before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC) and must start the day after the birth of the baby. Pregnancy related illnesses within 4 weeks of the EWC can automatically trigger maternity leave.
Keeping in Touch days
Employees may, by mutual agreement, work for up to 10 days during their maternity leave period (but not during the compulsory maternity leave period) without losing statutory payments for that week, or ending your entitlement to leave. Payment for KIT days is not defined but would typically be at the normal hourly rate for the role.
For this purpose any work carried out on any day, even just an hour’s work, is deemed to constitute “a day’s work”. Any days’ work done under this provision will not have the effect of extending the total duration of the maternity leave period.
Holidays and other benefits during maternity leave
Statutory holidays continue to accrue during maternity leave and can be carried over from one leave year to the next. This leaves a lot of accrued leave to use at the end of the maternity leave period. This can be used to extend maternity leave or as a phased return tool (eg take 2 days off a week for the first few months). As with all annual leave booking, this has to be agreed by the employer.
Contractual benefits continue to accrue during maternity leave but there are differences in what pension payments will be made depending on how it is delivered. Get specialist advice before implementing.
Pay rises during maternity leave
Employees on maternity leave should be treated the same as all other employees. If they are eligible for a salary increase, and this impacts any maternity pay, then it should be recalculated and paid at a convenient point in time.
Returning to work
Unless you are returning at the end of AML, the employee needs to give you 8 weeks notice of their intention to return from maternity leave. Any Flexible Working requests should be submitted at this point for your consideration.
If you return to work at the end of your OML period, you are entitled to return to the same job, with the same terms and conditions, in which you were employed before your absence.
If you return to work after a period of AML, you are entitled to return to the same job in which you were employed before your absence. Where this is not reasonably practicable, you will be entitled to return to a suitable and appropriate job on terms that are no less favourable.
Enhancing maternity pay
Many companies chose to enhance maternity pay. The 2016 CIPD Labour market survey found that whilst 48% of UK employers paid SMP, 18% of employers paid 26 weeks at full pay and 13 weeks at SMP. The rest paid in between. Enhancing maternity pay is a great engagement tool and if you can afford to do so, it is a great way to recruit and retain talent.
Maternity leave and Shared Parental leave
Another option open to employees is that they can choose to transfer part of their leave to their partner. This is called ‘Shared Parental leave’. The recipient of maternity leave must take the compulsory portion of maternity leave but they can transfer up to 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks pay to their partner.