October 22, 2015

Maternity Legislation – a summary of what you need to know

Maternity Legislation – a summary of what you need to know

 

Maternity and the legislation around it can be complex and a minefield if you get it wrong. There are very specific rules that you must follow to ensure that your pregnant employee and then new mum get what they are entitled to whilst they are in your employment.

 

As an employer your obligations start from the point an employee informs you they are pregnant and carries on until she returns to work after any maternity leave. But where do you start…?

 

When an employee tells you that she is pregnant there are notification requirements and health and safety issues. Your employee must inform you in writing that she is pregnant, the expected date of birth and when she is expecting to start her maternity leave. As the employer you then write acknowledging this and confirm the arrangements.

 

Additionally and as soon as practicably possible as the employer you have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of your pregnant employee – this means assessing the job that your employee is completing and whether any adjustments need to be made to ensure her safety and wellbeing and that of her unborn baby. This would also include carrying out a risk assessment specific to her and her needs.

 

During the pregnancy your employee is entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments as advised by a GP, registered midwife or health visitor, these appointments can include seeing the doctor or attending a hospital appointment for a scan or antenatal class.

 

Now regardless of length of service or how many hours are worked per week your pregnant employee is entitled to take Maternity Leave for up to 52 weeks. The first 26 weeks is called Ordinary Maternity Leave and the remaining 26 weeks is called Additional Maternity Leave. The first 2 weeks of leave after the birth of the baby is compulsory (or 4 weeks if she works in a factory).

 

Your employee can chose to take as much or as little leave as they wish as long as it falls within the guidelines. During leave your employee is entitled to a maximum of 10 Keeping in Touch Days (KIT) so that for example she can take part in a training course or attend an important meeting – these KIT days are paid at the employee’s normal rate of pay and doesn’t affect her entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).

 

In relation to SMP your pregnant employee must have at least 26 weeks service at the point where she is 15 weeks away from her expected due date to qualify, if not then she may be entitled to claim Maternity Allowance from the Benefits Agency.

 

SMP is paid at 90% of the full salary for the first 6 weeks and thereafter until the 33rd week paid at the statutory rate of £139.58 per week (this increases every April). From the 34th week until the end of maternity leave no further pay is due, therefore this last period is unpaid.

 

There is a common myth that a pregnant employee or one who is on maternity leave can’t be made redundant, however this is untrue. As long as the potential redundancy is genuine and not in any way related to her pregnancy or maternity leave then ensuring a proper process is followed and due consideration is given to any suitable alternative employment, then redundancy can take place. A word of warning though…selecting a woman for redundancy because of her pregnancy, maternity leave or a related reason is automatically unfair dismissal as well as being unlawful discrimination.

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