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Guidance for Drafting a Maternity Policy

With the recent EU vote on increasing Employers obligations when it comes to maternity pay hitting the headlines recently, its no surprise that the issue of Maternity Leave is once again on the radar of many business owners.

Due to the complexity of this area of UK employment law, many Employers find it difficult to know what should or shouldn't be covered in a maternity policy and therefore often miss out critical items or choose not to bother with a policy at all, either of which can leave their business exposed.

Not least due to the complexity of this area, we will seperate into three parts, detailed guidance notes aimed at helping Employers draft their own Maternity Policy that not only complies with current UK employment laws, but also provides them and their employees with clarity around the complexity that is Maternity Leave.

Part One - Statutory Obligations

Do I actually need a Maternity Policy?

Yes ~ All employees have a statutory right to maternity leave and so its crucial you have a clear, concise maternity policy that complies with current UK employment law.

If you currently have rules and regulations governing how to deal with maternity issues, even if they are not written down in a document, it is likely these existing rules will have to be incorporated into any new written policy you produce. 

To avoid future problems, you should take professional advice about what you need to do if you already have rules and regulations governing maternity issues before you plan to implement a new policy. 

In this post we'll be talking about your statutory obligations when it comes to Maternity Leave:

 Statutory Entitlement to Maternity Leave

All employees, regardless of length of service or number of hours worked, are now entitled to 52 weeks statutory Maternity Leave. The woman may return sooner, but must give notice of doing so. You may choose to allow a longer period than 52 weeks, but it is unusual in this sector. 

It is a legal requirement that at least two weeks maternity leave is taken immediately after childbirth.

Period of Notice

In order to exercise her right to maternity leave the employee must give the employer notice before the 15th week of EWC that:

  1. she is pregnant
  2. the EWC
  3. the date she intends to start her maternity leave.

If the employee wants to be paid Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP – see below) she must give the employer at least 28 days notice of the date she wants to start her maternity leave and SMP and give the employer her maternity certificate – the MAT B1 form.

After notification the employer must write to the employee within 28 days and state the date on which she is expected to return, which will be at the end of the AML period. 

 If the employee takes her full maternity leave entitlement she does not need to give notice of her return.  She can simply return on the date her leave ends.  She does have to give 28 days notice of return if she wishes to return earlier. 

Ante Natal Care

All pregnant employees are entitled to take reasonable paid time off for ante natal care.

Sickness Unrelated to Pregnancy

If the employee’s sickness is unrelated to her pregnancy then she should be treated in the same way as any other employee who is ill.

Sickness Related to Pregnancy

If the employee’s sickness is related to her pregnancy and occurs more than four weeks before childbirth, she should go on normal sick leave. 

NB an employee cannot be dismissed for having a pregnancy related illness and any such absences must be recorded separately from sickness absence unrelated to pregnancy.

If the employee is absent from work during or after the beginning of the fourth week before the EWC, at their discretion the employer can trigger the start of maternity leave even if it is at a date sooner than the woman would have wished. 

If the employee is ill at the end of her maternity leave she should be treated as being at work on sick leave and comply with the organisation’s normal sick leave procedures.

Contractual Rights and Remuneration

An employee on maternity leave preserves continuity of employment and is entitled to receive all contractual rights expect remuneration eg wages, salary, other payments).  Contractual rights include:

  • pension rights
  • holiday entitlement – these will accrue as normal under the employee’s contract. This includes public holidays
  • benefits e.g. company car

While on maternity leave many employees will be entitled to receive SMP, which is paid and reclaimed by the employer, or Maternity Allowance, which is claimed by the employee from the Department of Social Security

 

Coming Soon in Guidance for Drafting a Maternity Policy - Part Two...........

We'll be talking about Employers' obligations when it comes to Statutory Maternity Pay, the Maternity certificate, showing the EWC issued after 20th week of pregnancy, Maternity Pay Period : the 39 weeks in which SMP can be paid, Ordinary Maternity Leave: the first 26 weeks of maternity leave as well as Additional Maternity Leave: the 26 weeks following OML and Health & Safety at Work in realtion to pregnancy.




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