Planning for Maternity Leave

Posted on September 3, 2014 by


UP’s Sarah Macfarlane takes to the blog stage again this week, this time discussing how employers and employees can plan for Maternity Leave…and she’s speaking from personal experience!

Cuddly Toy HorseSssshh…..I’m a ‘bad’ employee…… the eagle eyed amongst you will remember that I returned from Maternity Leave in February of this year. However, I returned only to advise my Boss that my return to work was relatively short term and that I would indeed be off on Maternity leave again in the Autumn of this year.

Thankfully I work for a forward thinking organisation which encourages the team to reach a good work/ life balance……….not sure that this included 2 Maternity Leaves so close together. Mmm, we are where we are and it is what it is….

My ‘Not-So-New Mini Human’ (NSNMH) is simply amazing (to me), having mastered many new skills during her 15 months or so on Planet Earth, most of which I take full responsibility for. The less endearing of these new skills is her ‘selective hearing’ – just like my beloved family Labrador when I was growing up, Sally. Sally could not hear or react to any instruction of any kind but could hear the fridge door open from 3 rooms away.

How is she going to react to the next ‘New Mini Human’ (NMH) who will be here before we know it? And how will I cope with another maternity leave so close to the last and the gear change in pace that it brings?

As a good Employer, you can help support your employee through what can be a unsettling time, to make working while ‘expecting’ a more pleasant and organised affair.  In doing this there are a number of considerations that you need to review before your employee sets their ‘out of office’ and waddles (yes, waddles) off out the door in a blur of cupcakes and gifts (at least this was my previous experience!):

  • Ensure that you have issued written confirmation to the employee of the impending maternity leave and confirmed appropriate dates (finish and proposed return dates), clarify any entitlement to enhanced maternity pay that the company may offer/ amount of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and note that holiday leave is still accrued during maternity leave.
  • Paternity Leave entitlement has been enhanced so it would be worthwhile to establish if your employee is intending on sharing the period of leave with the Father (Paternity Leave) and therefore planning on returning ‘early’ (i.e. before the end of the additional maternity leave).
    • Please note: this right will be abolished once the Children and Families Act brings shared parental leave into effect on 5 April 2015.
  • Continue all contractual entitlements (other than pay) during the maternity leave period.
  • Ensure that you carry out an Expectant Mother Risk Assessment.
  • Allow reasonable paid time off for antenatal care as recommended by a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered health visitor.
    • Please note: Under the Children and Families Act 2014, with effect from 1st October 2014, there will be an extended right to attend ante-natal appointments. First, the right will apply to agency workers as well as to employees. Also, certain employees will be able to take unpaid time off work to attend up to two antenatal appointments for a maximum of six and a half hours for each appointment.
  • Agree with the member of staff, before they waddle off, when and how you will keep in contact with them during their maternity leave – especially if there are changes within the organisation, vacancies that may come up (which they are entitled to apply for) or company/ team social events that they should be invited to etc.
  • Agree in advance when and how your employee may be able to utilise their entitlement to ‘Keep in Touch’ (KIT) days should they wish to. Employees are paid for the KIT days at normal rate and are allowed to use 10 KIT during their maternity leave (not within the first 2 weeks following Childbirth), without affecting their SMP.

Finally, when planning for their return:

  • Show flexibility! All employees are now entitled to request flexible working and this is probably most common when an employee is planning on returning from maternity leave. Employers must reasonably consider any proposed change to the employees ‘standard’ working pattern or hours.
  • Show flexibility! A phased return to work was invaluable to me last time round and allows time for your employee to adjust to their return to the working world (where no sensible person talks about the content of nappies, teething, where body parts used to be and how they no longer operate as before etc.) and the other world run by the NSNMH’s/ NMH’s (where they don’t care if legislation changes/ policy reviews are required, training programmes need designed/ developed or operations HR issues need immediate attention).

So as my mind starts to turn to the arrival of Baby #2, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of getting on with the day job, drafting a handover that will probably have more detail in it that anyone would care for….and contemplating putting in a request for a paddling pool to be installed in the staff tea room to help me cope with the ‘slightly warmer than average’ summer we seem to be enjoying in Aberdeen.

If you would like to find out more, or have any queries about how to manage Maternity Leave in the workplace and the associated legislation that you must comply why not contact our lovely HR team?

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