How to deal with staff on maternity leave

 

1. Keep the process clear and transparent

Make sure that the company’s procedures for notification of pregnancy, maternity leave/pay and return to work are made clear. Family-friendly policies which are easy to read and are kept updated are a must.

2. Keep risk under review

How risky is the pregnant employee’s role, work hours and responsibilities? If there is significant risk, you may need to consider offering suitable alternative work on terms that are not substantially less favourable or if this is not possible, suspending on full pay.

3. Keep on top of pay

Many employers still fail to clearly set out a pregnant employee’s entitlement to pay during maternity leave. Prepare any calculations of entitlement early.

4. … But don’t forget benefits

An employee’s terms of employment will continue except normal pay during maternity leave. An employee entitled to use a company car for personal and business use may be entitled to continue this during their maternity leave. They may also remain entitled to bonuses based on company performance. Any failure to pay because they were absent would be a breach of contract and potential discrimination.

5. … and deal with annual leave

An employee accrues annual leave while on maternity leave and will be able to carry over any untaken leave to the next holiday year. Encourage an employee to take their annual leave either before maternity leave or before they return.

6. Keep in touch

Use employees’ entitlement to undertake ten days of work during maternity leave to your advantage. Are there clients they can visit to affirm client relationships? Note: it is a matter of agreement between employee and employer as to whether these days are paid.

7. Keep them informed

It is not out of sight out of mind. If you are informing staff of significant developments in the business, include employees on maternity leave, especially in the case of redundancies. Every effort must be made to ensure that they are informed and consulted.

8. Keep the return smooth

Don’t let the employee chase you for details of their return. Prior to their return, write to them re-confirming the date as they notified you at the start of their pregnancy. They should give you at least eight weeks notice if they wish to amend the return date.

9. Keep the same job?

An employee returning from both ordinary and additional maternity leave has the right to return to the same job. If there is a redundancy situation, do not be afraid to start the redundancy process with an employee on maternity leave. If there is a suitable alternative, an employee on maternity leave may have preference over others in the redundancy pool.

10. Keep it flexible

Often an employee will want to return on different hours of work. Following this “flexible working request”, you must hold a meeting with them to consider the details. If you decide to reject their proposal, make sure you clearly set out your business reasons in writing and do not be afraid to suggest alternatives that may work.

Nikki Petken is an employment solicitor at SA Law. Contact her on 01727 798023 or at nikki.petken@salaw.com

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