Understanding your rights and responsibilities when it comes to maternity leave is crucial for both employers and employees. In the UK, statutory maternity leave provides a framework that ensures pregnant employees are supported during and after their pregnancy.
In Review - Statutory Provisions for Maternity, Adoption, Shared Parental and Bereavement Leave, Alexandra Durrant delves into the key aspects of these provisions.
Duration and Eligibility Every pregnant employee in the UK is entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, which is divided into two parts: the first 26 weeks known as 'Ordinary Maternity Leave' and the remaining 26 weeks called 'Additional Maternity Leave'. This entitlement is irrespective of how long they have been employed or their status within the company, even if they are still within their probationary period.
Notification Requirements Employees must notify their employer at least 15 weeks before their due date, providing the expected week of childbirth and the date they intend to start their leave. Employers must then confirm the leave dates within 28 days of this notification. If the baby arrives early, leave starts the day after birth, and employers will need proof of birth to adjust leave dates accordingly.
Rights During Leave While on maternity leave, employees retain their employment rights and continue to accrue benefits such as pension contributions and holiday time. They are also entitled to any pay rises that occur during this period. It's important for employers to remember that the employee remains part of the workforce and should not be disadvantaged because of their leave.
Returning to Work After maternity leave, employees generally have the right to return to the same job with the same terms and conditions. If they return after Ordinary Maternity Leave, they are guaranteed their old job back. However, if they return after Additional Maternity Leave, they should be reinstated to their old job or a similar role if the former is no longer available.
Health and Safety Employers must conduct health and safety assessments and make necessary adjustments for returning employees, especially if their previous role involved physical tasks like lifting. Accommodations for breastfeeding mothers, such as providing a suitable place to rest, are also required, although a dedicated breastfeeding room is not mandatory.
Flexible Working Upon returning, employees can request flexible working arrangements. While employers are not obligated to grant every request, they must give it reasonable consideration and handle it in a manner consistent with employment law.
Redundancy and Resignation If redundancy occurs while an employee is on maternity leave, they have priority over other employees when it comes to being offered suitable alternative positions. Should an employee choose to resign after their leave, they must do so according to their contract.
Special Circumstances In the unfortunate event of a stillbirth after the 24th week of pregnancy or if the baby passes away after birth, the employee may still take their full maternity leave or choose to return to work earlier. These situations require sensitivity and understanding from the employer.
The statutory provisions for maternity leave in the UK are designed to protect the rights of pregnant employees and ensure they have the support they need during this significant life event. Both employers and employees should familiarise themselves with these rules to foster a supportive and compliant workplace environment. Remember, while the leave is unpaid, the security and benefits that come with it are invaluable for the well-being of both the employee and their new family.
For the full session please click here. Alexandra Durrant covers the following topics during this course:
- statutory leave for maternity
- statutory leave for adoption,
- statutory leave for shared parental leave
- statutory leave for bereavement
- Other related provisions – KIT days and SPLIT days
The contents of this article are meant as a guide only and are not a substitute for professional advice. The author/s accept no responsibility for any action taken, or refrained from, as a result of the material contained in this document. Specific advice should be obtained before acting or refraining from acting, in connection with the matters dealt with in this article.