Maternity and paternity rights
It is important to know what legal rights your employees have. Claims arising from a failure to recognise these rights are often costly and time-consuming. But implementing good practices can demonstrate a commitment to equal opportunities and inclusiveness and can be a way of attracting and retaining talent.
Who is entitled to time off for antenatal appointments?
Pregnant employees are entitled to reasonable paid time off for antenatal care. The partner of a pregnant woman is also entitled to take (unpaid) time off to accompany their partner but this is limited to two ante-natal appointments.
What are an employer’s obligations towards pregnant and breastfeeding employees?
Risk assessments must be carried out for pregnant employees and new mothers. If a risk is identified, for example exposure to toxic substances, action must be taken to reduce or remove it or, if this not possible, alternative arrangements must be made.
How much maternity leave can an employee take?
A pregnant employee can take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ordinary maternity leave (OML) and the next 26 weeks as additional maternity leave (AML). There is no minimum length of service required to take maternity leave, but the employee must provide certain information within a specified time period. During maternity leave, an employee is entitled to all of her usual contractual terms and conditions (apart from her right to be paid her basic salary), i.e. she should continue to be covered by her employer’s medical insurance. and is entitled to accrue holiday.
When is an employee entitled to statutory maternity pay?
This is payable if an employee has been working continuously for at least 26 weeks ending before the 15th week before the expected week of confinement (EWC) and has average weekly earnings at least equal to the lower earnings limit for NICs. Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is paid for 39 weeks. For the first six weeks it is 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings and for the remaining 33 weeks it is at the SMP rate of 90% or the employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower.
Does an employee have the right to return to the same job?
An employee returning to work after OML has the right to return to the same job she did before she went on maternity leave. If an employee has taken AML, she also has the right to return to the same job she did unless this is not reasonably practicable, in which case she has the right to return to another suitable job but on no less favourable terms.
What enhanced rights do employees on maternity leave have in redundancy situations?
If a redundancy situation arises, an employee on maternity leave must be offered – before any other employee – a suitable alternative vacancy. If no such vacancy is available, the employee can be made redundant providing a genuine redundancy situation exists and all procedures have been followed fairly.
Is an employee automatically entitled to switch to part-time work when returning?
There is no automatic right for an employee returning from maternity leave to change her hours, but she can make a flexible working request to the employer. Such a request must be reasonably and fairly considered.
Is an employee protected from dismissal by reason of pregnancy or maternity?
Yes, and more, a woman has enhanced rights against discrimination from the start of her pregnancy until the day she returns to work afterwards. During the ‘protected period’, she has the right not to be treated unfavourably because of her pregnancy, any pregnancy-related illness, or because she is on or has exercised her right to take maternity leave.
Who is entitled to paternity leave and pay?
A pregnant employee’s partner can take one or two weeks’ paid paternity leave if they have been employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the EWC. The leave must be taken in one go and must end within 56 days of the birth.
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