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Maternity and paternity guide for employers

We have put this guide together to help small or medium-sized business owners and managers navigate the maternity, paternity and adoptive rights of their staff. As an employer, you will almost certainly encounter one or many occasions when an employee announces they are expecting a baby. When this happens, you have certain responsibilities towards the employee, whether they are the mother or partner, which you should be aware of and will need to meet.

This guide will help employers understand what is expected in this situation from a legal perspective. It covers everything from when an employee must notify you of their pregnancy or adoption, to employee benefits during maternity, paternity or adoptive leave, to what rights an employee has to return to their job after their leave.

We hope this guide will ensure you are equipped with the basic information you need. That said, if you have any questions, one of our QualitySolicitors’ employment lawyers would be happy to help.

 

When is your employee required to tell you she’s pregnant?

An employee is required to notify her employer of the fact she is pregnant, when the child is due to be born, and when she intends to take maternity leave, no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. An employee is not required to provide any evidence in writing, however it is advisable for an employer to request written confirmation of the pregnancy. This can be supplied in the form of a maternity certificate (MAT B1 form) by a doctor or midwife and will confirm the expected week of childbirth.

Do I need to carry out a risk assessment for my pregnant employee?

Employers owe a duty care to ensure the health and safety of their employees in the workplace. As such, you are under an obligation to carry out a workplace risk assessment once an employee notifies you of their pregnancy that will look at any risks the work place poses to new or expectant mothers or their babies. If risks are identified, you must either alter your employee’s working conditions or hours to avoid any significant risk. If this is not possible, you need to look at offering suitable alternative work.

Do I pay my employee for time off to attend ante-natal appointments?

All pregnant employees have a statutory right to ‘reasonable’ paid time off during working hours to attend ante-natal appointments, which includes travel time. Fathers and partners of expectant mothers have a right to unpaid time off for two ante-natal appointments (but this is capped at 6.5 hours per appointment). Surrogacy parents are entitled to take unpaid time off for two ante-natal appointments. This right for expectant parents is available regardless of the length of service of the employee. In the case of adoption, you can also get paid time off work to attend 5 adoption appointments after you’ve been matched with a child.

 

When can an employee start their maternity leave?

An employee can choose to start their maternity leave on any day leading up to the expected week of childbirth as long as it is not before the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth. If the employee wishes to change the start date she must give her employer at least 28 days’ notice.

How much time is an employee entitled to take off for maternity leave?

An employee is entitled to take up to 12 month’s maternity leave. The first 26 weeks are known as Ordinary Maternity Leave and the second 26 weeks are known as Additional Maternity Leave. Employees with the requisite service and earnings are entitled to 39 weeks’ Statutory Maternity Pay.

An employee is entitled to take up to 12 month’s maternity leave. The first 26 weeks are known as Ordinary Maternity Leave and the second 26 weeks are known as Additional Maternity Leave. Employees with the requisite service and earnings are entitled to 39 weeks’ Statutory Maternity Pay.

What happens if an employee wants to return to work earlier than agreed?

If your employee decides that she wants to return to work earlier than your agreed date, she must give you eight weeks’ notice in writing of her new date of return to work.

Do I continue to provide benefits during an employee’s maternity leave?

During maternity leave an employee’s contract of employment continues and she is entitled to the benefit of all of the terms and conditions of employment except for the terms in relation to pay. Therefore all other benefits will continue; this includes accrual of contractual annual leave, health insurance, use of company cars, health club membership etc..

Am I required to continue paying into an employee’s pension during maternity leave?

An employer is also required to continue to pay full pension contributions into an employee’s pension scheme. The employer may not make any reduction to reflect the fact that the employee is being paid less than normal. The employee’s contribution will be reduced to reflect the employee’s Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). Once SMP runs out after 39 weeks the employer is not required to continue to pay pension contributions beyond this period.

 

An employee is entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. Unless otherwise indicated by the employee, the return to work date would be at the end of the 52 weeks’ full maternity leave period. If an employee wishes to return to work earlier than her Statutory Maternity Leave she must give at least eight weeks’ notice of her return date.

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