Festival of Learning: Spotlight on Family Friendly Rights

As September is the most popular month for births we take a look at some fast facts about statutory maternity and paternity leave as part of our Festival of Learning series.

Statutory Maternity Leave 

Most employers are aware that statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks and that there is no minimum length of service required to be able to take it. But did you know:

  • Employees don’t have to take the full 52 weeks if they don’t wish to do so but as a minimum they must take a period of ‘compulsory maternity leave’ this is the two weeks after their baby is born (or four weeks if they work in a factory).
  • A woman will usually need to notify her employer of her intention to take maternity leave by the end of the 15th week before her expected week of childbirth, unless it is not reasonably practicable for her to do so. She will need to tell her employer that she is pregnant, the week she expects her baby to be born and the date she intends to start maternity leave. Once this is received an employer should respond to the employee within 28 days confirming their return to work date (assuming they will be taking the full 52 weeks). If this isn’t done, an employer cannot prevent an employee from returning early from maternity leave without notice. Kingfisher Professional Services can help you with maternity leave related correspondence and there is a maternity leave plan available on request.
  • Normally the earliest a woman can start maternity leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. However, maternity leave will automatically start earlier if the baby is born early or the mother is absent for a pregnancy-related reason after the beginning of the 4th week before her expected week of childbirth and she has not yet started her maternity leave.
  • Employers and employees can agree that up to 10 days’ work can be done whilst an employee is on maternity leave. These days are called Keeping in Touch (KIT) Days, They don’t bring an employee’s leave to an end nor do they affect entitlement to any statutory pay during the leave period. For more information on KIT days, please contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd.
  • Where qualifying conditions are met, statutory maternity pay (SMP) is payable for 39 weeks: the first 6 weeks are at 90% of normal weekly earnings then 33 weeks at the statutory rate – currently £151.20 (or 90% of normal weekly earnings if this is lower). It’s important for employers to check their contracts of employment as some organisations offer enhanced rights when it comes to maternity pay.

Statutory Paternity Leave

Subject to meeting qualifying criteria, employees can take a period of paternity leave if their partner has given birth to a child. Paternity leave can be taken by either male or female employees providing they meet the qualifying criteria.

Did you know:

  • Statutory paternity leave is two weeks – an employee can choose to take it as one two week block or if they don’t want to take the full amount one block of a week. It cannot be taken as single days.
  • Leave cannot start before the birth and must end within 56 days of the birth (or due date if the baby is early)
  • The employee will need to tell their employer of their intention to take paternity leave by the end of the fifteenth week before the baby is expected, unless this is not reasonably practicable. They will need to tell their employer the expected week of childbirth, the length of leave they have chosen to take and when they wish the leave to begin. This doesn’t have to be a precise date, for example it could be the day of the child’s birth or a chosen number of days after the birth.

To be able to take statutory paternity leave following the birth of a child, the employee must meet the following criteria:

  • Be taking the leave to care for a newborn child or to support the child’s mother
  • Be the biological father of the child or is the mother’s spouse, civil partner or partner
  • Have or expect to have the main responsibility for the upbringing of the child (apart from any responsibility of the mother) if the individual is not the father of the child
  • Have at least 26 weeks continuous employment with the employer ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth

Where an employee meets the qualifying criteria for statutory paternity pay, it is currently payable at a weekly rate of £151.20 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). It’s important for employers to check their contracts of employment as some organisations offer enhanced rights when it comes to paternity pay.

Whilst we have focussed on statutory paternity leave following the birth of a child it’s important to remember that it can be taken where a child is adopted too, for information on paternity leave in this situation please contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd.

If an employee in your organisation wishes to take maternity or paternity leave or you would like further information on these areas, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help. We can provide employment law advice on your situation and we have resources available to assist employers, such as forms for use by employees in your organisation.

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