Maternity and pregnancy discrimination is becoming a more frequent feature in the media. In a report published by the Equality & Human Rights Commission in July, it was estimated that 54,000 new mothers every year may be forced out of their jobs in the UK through unfair discrimination in the workplace. Here are my top ten tips for employers to help properly manage pregnant employees and their maternity leave in the workplace. 1. Effective planning, awareness and action As soon as you can, speak to the employee’s line manager, direct supervisor, line manager and other team members to gauge their views on the best way to arrange cover for the employee’s leave. There are a number of options available – hire a temp, internally recruit, a secondment or change internal roles – it just depends on your business as to what the best decision will be. As a priority, if the employee’s work is to be redistributed amongst other staff you should take care that cover arrangements do not create resentment if colleagues end up with an increased workload. This can affect working relationships and impact on work and morale. 2. Communication is vital Discussing your employee’s rights and entitlements together is good practice. Talk to her about her plans and the maternity leave policy (if you’ve got one). You might want to discuss things, such as: when she expects to finish, how long she will be taking off etc. Nothing needs to be set in stone, but it will simply help to avoid confusion and any misunderstandings, helping to ensure that both parties know exactly where they stand. It will also help you to plan and manage her pregnancy and leave accordingly. 3. ‘Keeping-in-Touch’ days An employee on maternity leave may carry out up to 10 days’ work for you without bringing their maternity leave or pay to an end. It is very important to note though, that participation in these days are completely voluntary, but may be a good way for the employee to be kept in the loop, and they can coincide with days on which team meetings or training sessions are being held. You cannot require an employee to work a KIT day, nor does she have the right to work without your agreement. 4. Policies, procedures and training It is entirely expected that you adhere to all policies and procedures that have been previously set out. If, for whatever reason, you do have to stray away from what is set out, ensure that the reason is written down and agreed with the employee. It is essential that management and supervisors are fully trained and contain a good working knowledge of the procedures and any maternity policy. They also need to understand the obligations of the business and the rights that the employee has during this time. 5. Treating pregnant women unfairly is discrimination It is discrimination to treat a woman less favourably on the grounds of her pregnancy or maternity leave. Less favourable treatment may include, for example, a reduction in pay or hours, refusal to offer training or promotion opportunities, putting pressure on to resign or demoting the employee upon their return to work. Continue reading the tips on page two…
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