Pregnancy and Maternity Leave – Five Fast Facts

Published March 12 2021

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As it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday we thought we would take a look at five fast facts employers may find it helpful to know when it comes to statutory pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace.

  1. Ante-Natal Appointments

Employees have the right to reasonable paid time off work for ante-natal appointments which are made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered health visitor.  Antenatal appointments include medical examinations and may also include other appointments, for example, relaxation classes and parent-craft classes. The paid time-off employers allow an employee to take needs to include travelling and waiting time as well as time spent during the appointment itself.

Did you know? Whilst employers cannot ask for evidence of the first antenatal appointment, they can do for any subsequent appointments.  They can ask the employee for a certificate from a doctor, midwife or nurse stating that she is pregnant and an appointment card or some other document showing that an appointment has been made.  If an employer makes a request for this evidence, the employee will not be entitled to the time off until it has been produced.

  1. Taking Maternity Leave

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.

Did you know? 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.

  1. Out of Sight but Not Out of Mind

Employers and employees can make reasonable contact with each other whilst a woman is on maternity leave. It’s important that an employer doesn’t forget about an employee whilst she is away from the workplace, she should be kept informed of important matters such as promotion and development opportunities and proposed redundancies/restructures.

Did you know? To ensure the right balance is struck between keeping in touch and allowing the employee to enjoy her maternity leave it’s important to discuss and agree in advance how contact will be maintained during that time. 

  1. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

Where qualifying conditions are met, SMP is payable for 39 weeks. The first 6 weeks are at 90% of normal weekly earnings then 33 weeks at the statutory rate (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.

Did you know?  The new statutory payment rates for SMP and other types of family leave have been announced. These can be found here:  

  1. Employment Protections

It’s important to be aware that employees have the right not to be discriminated against because of pregnancy, maternity or sex and that it is automatically unfair to dismiss a woman in connection with family leave rights or because she is pregnant. These are day one rights. If an employer is considering taking steps that may affect a pregnant employee or a woman who is on maternity leave, such as proposing to make her role redundant, it’s important to seek advice from Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd before taking any action. We can provide you with advice on the facts of your case.

Did you know?  It’s not just employees that are protected from discrimination, job applicants are too. It’s important for employers to ensure that they have a fair and appropriate recruitment process in place and that recruitment decisions can be shown to be non-discriminatory if challenged.

If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Service Ltd as we are happy to help.