HR & Management

Royal baby puts maternity leave practices into the spotlight

4 min read

25 April 2018

Former special projects journalist

The Duchess of Cambridge may not have a typical job, but now seems as good a time as any to explore what maternity leave is like for the rest of the population. Here are some tips for returning to work.

As the UK eagerly awaits the announcement of the name of the latest addition to the Royal family, let us spare a thought for the Duchess of Cambridge, thrust into the limelight once again so soon after giving birth.

As before, the details of her outfit were picked over the press, but there’s no denying the composure with which she posed for photographs as she introduced her third child to the world.

However, of course not all new mothers are as ready, willing or able to return to their work duties so soon. A delicate balancing act comes into play as mothers try to calculate how much time they would like to take, and how much they can afford to take.

Here are some tips to help navigate the choppy waters of maternity leave so you don’t feel all at sea when you return to the office.

Maternity leave basics

You qualify for maternity leave if you are an employee, and if you give your employer the correct notice. It does not matter how long you have been with an employer.

Statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks – the two weeks’ leave after your baby is born is mandatory, and this rises to four weeks if you work in a factory.

While 52 weeks is generous, don’t go thinking you’re getting a year off work, all expenses paid – you are only entitled to 90% of your earnings for the first six weeks, with this dropping to £145.18 or 90% of weekly earnings for the next 33 weeks.

You can find out more about the correct procedures for informing your employer and booking in your maternity leave here.
Take your KIT days

Keeping in Touch (KIT) days are optional, but employees are entitled to work up to ten days during maternity leave. Both the business and the employee need to agree to them, but they can be a great way to get back into the swing of things as maternity leave is coming to an end.

Other than this, “reasonable” contact is permitted while an employee is on maternity leave. Clearly, this leaves some room for interpretation, but a business owner should not make an employee feel obliged to return to work. You are well within their rights to take the full 52 weeks, should you choose to do so.

Returning to work

Returning to your old job can seem daunting, especially if you have taken the full amount of maternity leave and things have moved on in your absence. There could be new faces, new procedures, and to top it off you yourself have a radically altered schedule that now has to factor in childcare.

You may find it useful to request flexible working hours, or even if you can work from home some days. Your employer must deal with the request in a “reasonable manner” – such as weighing up the pros and cons and discussing the plan with you in a meeting.

An employer can refuse a flexible working application if they have a good business reason, but if you feel they have been unreasonable you can take them to an employment tribunal.

Overall, there are many factors that can affect how easy it is to return to work after a period of maternity leave. Small businesses may need all hands on deck, and financial pressures cannot be ignored – but, first thing’s first, make sure you know your rights, so you know what you are able to negotiate.