Maternity leave - FAQs
From picking the right moment to tell your employer that you are expecting, to arranging maternity cover, being pregnant at work can be daunting for some. Expectant mothers can find themselves questioning the amount of time they should take off in fear that being absent will leave their job vulnerable to ambitious colleagues or even redundancy. It is important that you know your rights for maternity leave in order to allow your pregnancy to be stress free and also to enable you to take full advantage of all the work-related benefits that it can bring.
When do I tell my employer?
You should tell your employer about your pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby is due. If this is not possible (perhaps because you were unaware that you were pregnant) then you should tell your employer as soon as possible. Before this deadline, it is really up to you as there is no immediate rush, however be aware that health and safety laws mean that you will be protected from heavy lifting, working long hours and standing for extensive periods if your employer knows you are pregnant. Therefore it makes sense to inform them in order to avoid risk of harm to both you and your baby.
What if I have a pregnancy related illness before I take leave?
If you take pregnancy related sick leave in the month before you are due to start you maternity leave your employer is entitled to start your leave early. This will shorten your leave entitlement at the other end. Although it may pay to be wary of taking such leave, if it is necessary in terms of the health of you and your baby you shouldn’t take any risks in that respect.
Will I still receive my bonus?
Maternity leave is calculated at 90% of average earnings, a figure taken 15 weeks before your expected due date. If your bonus falls within this period it will be incorporated in your maternity pay, therefore you may want to consider planning your leave around your bonus.
Can I avoid redundancy if I am pregnant?
No. Pregnant employees can still be made redundant, however employers cannot make you redundant because you are pregnant, and they would need to prove it is for a purely objective reason.
What about my replacement?
If you are asked to help your employer choose your maternity cover do not be tempted to choose someone who won’t do a good job. You may get the blame if something goes wrong and you would regret having to return to chaos! It is advisable to choose someone who has a history of maternity cover, that way you can be assured that your job will be waiting for you on your return. Ensure that you have enough time to provide a smooth hand over and build up a rapport in order that they keep you well-informed of what is going on in the workplace.
What happens to my holiday entitlement?
Ensure that you are up-to-date with your company’s policy on taking holiday during maternity leave. Some employers will allow you to save up all your holiday entitlement for you to take immediately after your maternity leave has ended. Others may allow you to use your holiday to phase you back into work. For example, you could use your saved up holiday to work one or two days a week for a few months as a way of easing the pressure of immediately returning full-time.
What are KIT days?
The government allows up to 10 “Keeping in Touch” (KIT). These allow you come into the office to talk through what has been going on in your absence so that you are kept in the loop and can easily adjust on your return. You do not have to be in the office for a full day in order to receive your entitlement to pay, an hour should suffice.
Can I make a flexible working request?
All eligible employees have the right to request flexible working, whether it be part-time working, staggered hours, working from home, job sharing or a combination. Be mindful to make a request at least 4 months before by writing to your employer stating your suggested changes. Your employer will then hold a meeting (within 28 days) and then inform you of their decision (within 14 days). Your employer has the right to refuse your request but this must be based on a justified and objective reason. Be aware that you do not have a right to flexible working, only a right to request it and for that request to be considered.