Before maternity leave begins

  • Appear genuinely pleased and supportive. This is likely to be a stressful time for the employee and you should make her feel that she can enjoy the experience of being pregnant, even whilst working, and that your organisation supports women who have families and work.
  • Advise the employee of the benefits she is entitled to. When doing this, you must consider any internal policy you might have in an employee handbook. Although the minimum statutory requirements are set out in the Maternity & Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 (as amended), you should also ensure that you advise the employee of any additional rights she may be entitled to under your policy – such as return to work bonuses.
  • Make it clear that you are happy for the employee to have reasonable time off during working hours, with pay, in order to receive ante-natal care.
  • Ask whether she would like an internal announcement made, or if she would prefer to tell colleagues in her own time.
  • Explain that you will require, in due course, medical evidence of the expected date of birth. You should receive from her a maternity certificate (form Mat B1) which is available from her doctor or midwife. You will need a copy of this in order to recoup Statutory Maternity Pay from the Government.
  • You must carry-out a risk assessment of any processes or working conditions which could jeopardise the health or safety of the employee or that of her baby. Tell her the results of your risk assessment. Consult with the employee – there may be parts of her job which she does not feel able to perform as her pregnancy advances.
  • Make reasonable adjustments to the employee’s role to avoid any risk (identified above). Whilst temporary adjustments to her working conditions may have to be made, you should not alter her terms and conditions of employment without her consent. If it is not possible to make adjustments and avoid the identified risks, you must offer alternative work which is both suitable and appropriate for her to do in the circumstances. If your organisation is very small, and she cannot work without health and safety risk, she may have to stay away from the workplace on full pay.
  • Be aware of the potential for claims of sex discrimination and doing something which could give her a claim for automatic unfair dismissal. For example, if you are making redundancies and a pregnant employee’s post is affected, there are additional obligations on you. Furthermore, the employee is protected against being subjected to detriment by reason of her pregnancy. This could include, for example, the denial of a promotion opportunity which would otherwise have been offered to her.
  • You should also be careful to ensure that actions done with the best of intentions are not construed as detrimental treatment. For example, an employer may consider that it is being extremely generous by allowing an employee to reduce her duties or even stay at home during her pregnancy. Whilst many employees would welcome such a move with open arms, a woman may consider such unilateral action undermines her position and is being forced upon her. Again, consultation with the employee explaining the need to protect her should be carried out prior to imposing any such changes, to ensure that she is happy with the proposal and does not consider it oppressive or detrimental treatment by virtue of her pregnancy.

STOP PRESS

The DTI has recently published its consultation paper on proposals to, among other things, extend statutory paid maternity leave from six months to nine months. A copy of the press release (with links to the consultation paper) is available at: http://www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=148606&NewsAreaID=2


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