The Law imposes minimum standards when an employee becomes pregnant. One of the rights of a mother is that of Maternity Leave.
How does a mother qualify for maternity leave?
- The mother must be classed as an employee.
- There is no minimum length of service required.
- The employee must inform the employer of the following information at least 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth:
- the fact that she is pregnant;
- when she wishes to start her maternity leave;
- when the expected week of childbirth is.
How much leave do mothers get?
Up to 52 weeks.
All employees must take a minimum of two weeks maternity leave (4 weeks if you are a factory worker), which starts with the day on which the child is born. If an employer makes an employee work during this period then they could be guilty of a criminal offence.
When can a mother commence maternity leave?
Commencement of leave must be no earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth. Variations to this include: premature birth, or absence from work for pregnancy-related reasons.
Do mothers get paid when they are on leave?
Statutory maternity pay for 39 weeks can be available if the employee meets the requisite criteria. An employer may offer benefits above and beyond this.
What happens regarding returning from leave?
- An employee must ensure the employer is sufficiently notified and aware of her return – particular procedure is to be followed.
- She has the right to return to the same job. If there are instances where this may not be the case (e.g. due to a redundancy situation) then there are protective measures in place to ensure that the mother is treated favorably, and certainly not discriminated against in the process.
- It can often be the case that an employee wishes to vary their working in light of their new domestic circumstances, and therefore she may be able to make a Flexible Working Request if certain criteria are satisfied.
Staying in touch with work when on maternity leave
An employer must make reasonable contact with an employee whilst she is on maternity leave.
In addition, the employee may be able to take part in “KIT” days (“Keeping-in-Touch days). During this time, the employee can carry out work for the employer and may receive pay for this. An employer cannot compel an employee to work a KIT day, nor can an employee work a KIT day without the employer’s agreement.
Discrimination whilst on maternity leave
Protection from discrimination is afforded under the Equality Act 2010, therefore an employer’s responsibility in this sense does not cease when an employee is away from work due to maternity leave. Should an employee have concerns of discrimination then legal advice should be sought as soon as possible, as the time scale to bring a claim in the Tribunal will likely be 3 months from the date of the discriminatory act/omission.
Change is afoot
New legislation is coming in to force in April 2015 which will allow for statutory leave to be shared between the parents of the child in question.
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