FAQs – MATERNITY

We support clients to get the basics in place, whilst advising on a wide range of employment matters.  Our clients range from the very small with just two or three employees, right the way up to bigger organisations with 50+ employees.

In this blog series, HR Consultant Melissa Marlow takes you through the most frequently asked questions about “Maternity”.

What leave is a pregnant employee entitled to?

An employee is entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave, which is made up of 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave immediately followed by 26 weeks of additional maternity leave.

Does an employee have to have worked for the business for a qualifying period of time to be entitled to maternity leave?

No, the entitlement  to maternity leave applies to all female employees regardless of length of service, or number of hours worked.

When does an employee have to tell you that she is pregnant?

Ideally the employee will inform her employer of her pregnancy as soon as possible to ensure any relevant health and safety precautions are taken and to allow time for forward planning. However, an employee does have the right to wait to inform her employer no later than 15 weeks before her expected week of childbirth. Any notification of pregnancy should be accompanied by the employee’s MAT B1 which the employee will obtain from her midwife, or Doctor.

Can an employee choose on which day of the week to start her maternity leave?

Yes, it is for the employee to choose the day on which she would like her maternity to start. It does not have to begin on a particular day of the week. The earliest date that an employee can choose to start her maternity leave is the 11th week before her expected week of childbirth (as detailed on the employee’s MAT B1).

What are the consequences where an employer fails to respond to an employee’s notification of her maternity leave?

An employer must respond to an employee’s notification of her intended maternity leave within 28 days, informing the employee of the date on which her additional maternity leave will end. The consequences of a failure to respond will be that the employer cannot prevent the employee from returning at an earlier date, or withhold her pay if she returns early, nor can it discipline or dismiss her if she does not return at the end of her 52 weeks’ maternity leave.

Does a pregnant employee have the right to time off to attend antenatal appointments?

Yes, pregnant employees have the right to paid time off to attend appointments for antenatal care. The employer can ask the employee to show it an appointment card, unless she is requesting time off for her first appointment. If attendance at the appointment is a matter of personal choice for the employee and is not on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse, there is no obligation on the employer to give paid time off.

What happens if an employee is off sick in the weeks before their maternity leave is due to start?

If an employee is off work with a pregnancy-related sickness  in the 4 weeks before the expected week of childbirth then maternity leave will be triggered automatically. The employee is required to inform the employer as soon as reasonably practicable of her absence for a pregnancy-related reason and the date on which it began. The employer must write to the employee confirming the new end date of her additional maternity leave.

If an employee is off work with a non-pregnancy- related sickness then maternity does not start until the nominated day, as usual.

Does holiday entitlement continue to accrue during a period of maternity leave?

Yes, holiday entitlement is a contractual benefit which continues to accrue during maternity leave.  It may be in your interest to allow an employee to take any leave accrued as a block either before they commence maternity leave, immediately upon their return to work, or a combination of the two. You should make the employee aware though that the usual deductions for taken holiday in excess of that accrued at the time of leaving (if they choose to leave during their maternity leave), will apply.

Can an employer contact an employee on maternity leave to ask if and when she intends to return to work?

An employer can make “reasonable contact” with an employee during maternity leave, for example to discuss the employee’s return to work. However, if the employer does contact the employee in these circumstances, the employee is under no statutory obligation to reply. She is entitled simply to return to work at the end of additional maternity leave.

Subject to the notice periods for returning early, or not returning at all, being given where appropriate, there is nothing the employer can do if the employee refuses to confirm on request if or when she intends to return to work.

What are Keeping in Touch days?

Keeping in touch (or KIT) days, are days that an employee can work for the business without sacrificing  their right to leave or pay. An employee can take up to 10 KIT days, however they are optional and what work will be undertaken and what pay will be issued, need to be agreed by both the employee and employer – neither one can insist on KIT days. These days can be used to attend training which will be helpful on the employee’s return, complete work, or bring the employee up to speed on changes in the business to ease their return to work.

It’s important to note that the 10 KIT days are not prorated for part-time employees – they too have 10 days available, regardless of if they work part-time.

What happens if an employee doesn’t want to return to work?

If the employee doesn’t want to return to work after the period of maternity leave, they must let the business know by giving the period of notice for resignation, as defined in their contract of employment. For example if an employee was due to return back to work on 1st February 2019, and had a 3 month notice period, they would need to notify the business by 1st November 2018 at the lastest.

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