Many employers are worried about the potential impact of parental leave on their business. We examine here exactly what the law states you can and cannot do when your staff are having children.
Staff of both sexes have rights by law to take time off as a result of having children so it is important to know what they are so you can take them into consideration when making plans for you company’s future.
Also, you must understand the requirements set by recent acts of Parliament, which state the obligations of both employers and employees.
An employee is entitled to 13 weeks’ parental leave (per child) if they have been with you or an associated employer for a year or more; or if they have a child under the age of five or a child who was adopted over the past five years and is under 18.
An employee is entitled to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave if their child is entitled to receive disability living allowance.
Parents do not have to be living with the child to qualify, but the leave must be taken within a set period and leave cannot be transferred between parents.
Ordinary Maternity Leave is 26 weeks. Additional Maternity Leave is a further 26 on top of that, making a year’s continuous leave – all pregnant employees are entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave around the birth of their child.
All pregnant employees qualify for a year on leave.
What must they do?
By the 15th week of the Expected Week of Delivery (EWD) they must inform you of following: that they are pregnant; the week the baby is due and when they want their leave to begin.
The employee has the right to change their mind if they wish to do so as long as they give 28 days notice.
Once the employee has fulfilled this criteria, provided they haven’t changed their mind, you must respond to their request in writing within 28 days.
It is also expected that you will write to your employee spelling out the date that you expect them to return if they are planning to take their full maternity leave.
An employee must take at least two weeks off after the birth of her child; four weeks if she works in a factory.
How much do I have to pay?
Maternity pay is paid for a maximum of 39 weeks, the first six weeks are paid at 90% of her average weekly earnings, followed by a lesser of a flat rate of her average weekly earnings for the remaining 33 weeks. The flat rate is subject to review every April.
To work out the exact figures for maternity pay, go to the HMRC site: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/employers/employee_pregnant.htm#13
The good news for employers is that they can be reimbursed for most or all of maternity leave money by HRMC .
Also, many startups -- which have a national insurance liability of less than £45,000 in the previous year -- can reclaim 104.5% of their maternity payments.
Finally, if you are finding that cashflow is a problem then you can claim money in advance from HM Revenues and Customs.
The sickness trigger
If your member of staff is ill due to a pregnancy related illness in the four weeks before her EWD then her leave begins immediately – this is known as the ‘the sickness trigger’
Parents who have children under six or children with disabilities have the right to apply to work flexibly and you as an employer must consider this request seriously. However, although flexible work policies are under review, currently your staff has no automatic right to demand flexible hours.
Your male staff can qualify for paternity leave if they meet the following criteria: they have worked for you for continuously for 26 weeks or more; they are the biological father of the child or the mother’s husband or they are expected to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing.
If you doubt that the staff member is eligible then you may ask for a copy of the birth or adoption certificate.
How long does it last?
Fathers can take up to two weeks paternity leave - this is at the same rate as maternity pay. They must inform you of this at least one week before the baby is due of the expected week of delivery and when they want their leave to start.
Employees are entitled to return to the same position after their leave is over.
An employee is entitled to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave if their child is due to receive disability living allowance.