Congratulations Harry and Meghan!!

October 19, 2018
 

With the recent announcement of another Royal baby on the way it got us thinking about pregnancy and how we help our clients to deal with an employee announcing that she is pregnant. Would you know what you need to do and when?

In most cases a pregnant employee will be very excited so when they first make you aware it is important to have a positive response – congratulate the employee. You can ask her questions about how she is feeling but at these early stages do not ask questions about her intentions with regards to when she is planning on finishing work or how long she intends to take on maternity leave.

Remember to keep all conversations private and bear in mind it is her news to announce and she should be allowed to do this in her own time.

Maternity risk assessment

The maternity risk assessment is used to ensure that expectant or new mothers are safe at work. If you identify a health risk you must take steps to remove it, by adjusting working conditions/hours or offering another job. If this isn’t possible you should suspend the employee on full pay for as long as the risk remains.

It is important to involve the employee and take into consideration any advice received by their midwife or doctor.

Some of the most common risks are:

  • Lifting or carrying heavy loads
  • Standing or sitting for long periods
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Long working hours
  • Work related stress
  • High or low temperatures
  • Work stations and posture
  • Threat of violence in the workplace
  • Excessively noisy workplaces.

You should continuously monitor the employee’s working environment during all stages of pregnancy.

Time off for appointments

Pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for maternity/antenatal appointments, this should be paid at their normal rate of pay. These appointments may include any maternity related classes that the employees’ midwife or GP recommends.

Where appointments are made you can request that wherever possible they outside of working hours or with the least disruption to the business as possible. You must allow a reasonable amount of time to cover travel to and from the appointment too. As an employer you do have the right to request evidence of appointments from the employee, with the exception of the first antenatal appointment.

Evidence of pregnancy

At around 20 weeks the employee should receive her MATB1 form from her midwife and she should provide a copy for the company.

The employee must inform you of her intended maternity leave start date before the 15th week before the baby is due. The Company should write to confirm dates and entitlement to pay.

Once the employee has advised you of the date that they wish their maternity leave to start if they want to change this date they must give you 28 days notice in writing of the change.

Maternity Leave

All pregnant employees are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave.

The employee must take two compulsory weeks maternity leave following the birth, or four compulsory weeks if they work in a factory.

Statutory Maternity Pay

A pregnant employee that meets the qualifying criteria is entitled to be paid Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for 39 weeks.

The current standard rate of SMP is £145.18 per week.

SMP is broken down as follows:

  • First 6 weeks – 90% of average weekly earnings at the relevant period with no upper limit
  • Remaining 33 weeks – either the weekly standard rate of SMP or 90% of their average weekly earning whichever rate is lower.

To qualify for SMP the employee must:

  • earn on average at least £116 a week
  • give the correct notice
  • give proof they are pregnant
  • have worked for the Company continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the ‘qualifying week’ – the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.

If the employee is not entitled to SMP you must tell them in writing and provide them with a SMP1 form explaining why they do not meet the qualifying criteria.

Once the mother is on maternity leave a good way of keeping in touch with the employee is to use ‘Keeping In Touch days’. Employees can work up to a maximum of 10 KIT days without losing SMP.

The contract of employment remains in place during maternity leave. Holiday will continue to accrue during maternity leave which you must allow the employee to use at the end of her maternity leave or in the following holiday year.

Returning from Maternity leave

If the employee returns to work within the first 26 weeks of maternity leave they have the right to return to the same job as they carried out before they went on maternity leave.

If the employee has taken more than 26 weeks of maternity leave they are entitled to return to the same job – unless this is not reasonable. In this case they should be offered another suitable job with the same pay and conditions as they had before maternity leave.

If the employee does not intend on returning to work after maternity leave they must give you the contractual notice required to terminate their employment which is treated as resignation.

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