June 20, 2014

Maternity Leave – your questions answered?

The regulations around Maternity and Paternity leave can be complex leaving employers unclear on what their obligations are. We have put together some of our most frequently asked questions to simplify it for you.

How much leave are pregnant employees entitled to?

Every pregnant employee has the right to take up to 52 weeks leave regardless of length of service. This is made up of 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave.

What are they entitled to during maternity leave?

An employee is entitled to all of the terms and conditions of employment that would have applied but for her absence, except for terms and conditions regarding remuneration.  This includes their entitlement to holiday pay.

Is Maternity leave paid?

The employee will usually be entitled to statutory maternity pay for a period of up to 39 weeks, with the first six weeks payable at 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, followed by 33 weeks payable at a rate set by the Government  (or at 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, if this figure is lower than the Government’s set weekly rate). Employees whose average weekly earnings are less than the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions will not, however, qualify for statutory maternity pay.

Can an employee work doing their maternity leave?

An employee can work up to 10 days during her maternity leave without brining her maternity leave it to an end.  These are called “Keeping- in- touch” days.

Is the employee entitled to return to the same job when they return from maternity leave?

Yes she has the right to return to the job she occupied immediately before her maternity leave began or, in some circumstance, to a suitable alternative job on terms and conditions no less favorable than those of her original job.

Are they entitled to attend antenatal appointments during their normal working time?

Pregnant employees have the right to paid time off work to attend antenatal appointments if their attendance has been recommended by a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse.

Are fathers entitled to attend antenatal appointments during their normal working time?

From October 2014 fathers will be entitled to take time off without pay to attend up to two antenatal appointments. This change is one of the first steps in the government’s plans to introduce a flexible approach to maternity and paternity leave that will allow parents greater choice over how to balance their work and family commitments.

When can we expect them to return?

You need to assume that the employee is taking the full 1 years entitlement to leave. If they wish to return earlier than this date, she must give the employer at least eight weeks’ notice of the intended early return date.

Can they transfer some of their maternity leave to the father?

Yes, if the mother wishes to return to work they can transfer up to 26 weeks of their leave to the father.

New Arrangements due to come into force April 2015

  • 18 weeks of maternity leave for the mother to be taken in one continuous block around the time of the birth.  The current statutory maternity pay/maternity allowance arrangements will remain in place.
  • Fathers retain the existing right to two weeks’ paid paternity leave at the time of the birth.
  • 34 weeks of flexible parental leave, of which four weeks is reserved for the exclusive use of each parent, and the remainder may be taken by either parent.
  • If the mother wishes to take the full 52 weeks of leave, the father’s four weeks of reserved paid parental leave will be given in addition to the mother’s 52 weeks so that the period of paid leave available to the mother is not reduced.
  • Paid leave must be taken before the child’s first birthday.
  • Mothers and fathers can take parental leave at the same time.

The above will be followed by an entitlement to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave (which will be available until the child’s 8th/12th/16th or 18th birthday – depending on whether an age limit is retained or not).

Further Advice and Support

Our Advice Line can answer specific questions relating to maternity, paternity or parental leave.  Please contact an Adviser on 0845 073 0266 who will be happy to help.

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