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5 October 2020

Employment Law and Maternity Rights: Before Maternity Leave

Birth rates for 2018/2019 were lower in comparison to previous year's however furlough and families generally spending more time together there is speculation that the birth rate may increase in 2020/21. Throughout history, baby booms have occurred as countries get back to normal after a crisis. However, experts counterbalance whether the coronavirus pandemic will have the same baby boom effect because of the financial commitment involved in raising a child, which may seem unfeasible for those who are struggling with money due to job losses. 

Whatever the outcome on the birth rate, the coronavirus can be a particularly daunting time for pregnant women and many businesses are still unfamiliar with maternity leave and employment rights. This could leave many businesses that have never experienced employees’ maternity rights needing to review their HR guidance and employee handbooks.

In our series on maternity-related employment law, we consider advice for before, during and after birth.

Employment considerations before Maternity leave

  • Antenatal appointments

All pregnant employees have a statutory right to paid time off during working hours to receive antenatal care, regardless of hours worked or length of service.

  • Compulsory Maternity Leave

All employees must take a minimum of two weeks’ maternity leave starting with the day on which childbirth occurs.

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave

Ordinary Maternity Leave is 26 weeks’ leave available to all employees, regardless of the length of service, who give birth and who have complied with the notification conditions.

  • Additional Maternity Leave

Additional Maternity Leave follows immediately after the end of Ordinary Maternity Leave and lasts for up to a further 26 weeks, giving a total entitlement of 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave, and is also available to all employees regardless of their length of service.

  • Maternity Pay

Employees will be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay if they have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks by the end of the Qualifying Week, which is the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC). The 26-week period must include at least one-day employment in the Qualifying Week.

If the due date is mid-January (say 15 January 2021) then they needed to have been employed from 11 April 2020. For a specific Maternity Pay calculator which automatically provides the dates for you, see https://www.gov.uk/maternity-paternity-calculator.

What to discuss at a Pre-Maternity Leave Meeting

1. Confirm that both parties have received/issued and understood all the necessary paperwork.

2. Discuss employee’s workload and the handover process.

3. Annual leave (current holiday year): Does the employee have any annual leave left for the current holiday year?

4. Annual leave (accrual during maternity leave): What does the employee wish to do with holiday accrued during maternity leave?

5. Employment contract: Outline the status of the employee’s contract of employment during maternity leave, and rights and obligations towards the employer

6. Keeping in contact:

a) What is the employee’s preferred method of contact during maternity leave? (such as via post or personal email address)

b) Do they want to receive any regular external or internal publications while away? (such as copies of industry publications, internal company vacancy lists, company newsletters or bulletins, invitations to work social events)

7. Keeping-in-touch (KIT) days: Does the employer have a policy regarding the use of KIT days?

8. Shared parental leave: Advise the employee of the availability of shared parental leave if she and her partner meet the eligibility requirements

9. Arrangements for return to work: An employer will usually be in contact shortly before the employee is due to return to work and invite them to have a discussion (whether in person or by telephone) about the arrangements to return to work.

10. Flexible working: How does the employer deal with requests for flexible or part-time working?

To read our Employment Law and Maternity Rights series: please use the links below:

Pt2. Employment Law and Maternity Rights: During Maternity Leave 

Pt3. Employment Law and Maternity Rights: After Maternity Leave

If you would have further questions regarding any of the points raised in our employment law and maternity rights series for employers or you wish to speak to a member of the Employment team, please do not hesitate to call 01603 598000 or email employment@steeleslaw.co.uk.

*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.



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