What are an employee’s rights during pregnancy?
In the UK it is recognised that maternity leave is very important. Currently, new mothers are entitled to 52 weeks leave in total, with the first two weeks of maternity leave being compulsory. This is regardless of how long they have been employed, how many hours they work and what their pay amounts to. They will also keep their right to any pay rises and will still accrue annual leave during this time.
Shared parental leave
Flexible parenting reforms, to be introduced in 2015, mean that parents will be able to choose how they take care of their child during the first year of their birth and be able to share the 52 weeks of leave between the two parents. This is to give greater flexibility to parents to choose how they share leave and to make it easier for women to return to their jobs after pregnancy.
What about pay?
The first 39 weeks of maternity leave include statutory maternity pay (SMP). To claim SMP an employee needs to have been working for their employer with no breaks for at least 26 weeks.
For the first six weeks of leave they will receive as much as 90% of their average weekly earnings however for the remaining 33 weeks this will be reduced to £138.18 or 90% of their average weekly earnings.
Returning to work
“Keeping-in-touch” days can help to ensure a smooth transition back to work. These are 10 days in which an employee can be allowed to work during their leave, however they are not compulsory.
Employees must give their employers notice of their pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the baby is expected. They must explain when the baby is due and also the date that they wish to start their maternity leave.
To qualify for SMP employees must be on the payroll, give correct notice, proof they are pregnant and have worked for at least 26 weeks up to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
An employer cannot refuse maternity leave or make changes to the amount of time an employee wishes to take, however if the employee doesn’t give the correct amount of notice (with no good reason) then an employer can delay their leave by writing to them within 28 days of their initial request.