Oct 16

Common pitfalls when dealing with maternity….

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According to the Office for National Statistics the autumn is the most popular season to give birth!

To ensure you are up to date with the full range of maternity rights women are entitled to and some of the pitfalls employers fall into……the following is worth a read…

Maternity leave

Recent figures show that most women on maternity leave will want to return to work after their leave – three-quarters of women with children now work, a 50% rise in more than 40 years. However, despite the introduction of the Equality Act 2010 which specifically protects pregnancy and maternity, the law is still quite complicated for both employers and new mums to navigate and frequently things go wrong.

Pay rises

Women on maternity leave should always be considered for pay rises even though they are not working. Any pay rise should be backdated to the beginning of their maternity leave, irrespective of the period the pay rise covers.

If the woman earns more than statutory maternity pay (SMP), the pay rise will not affect her salary after her first six weeks of leave, as the amount she is entitled to is capped after this point. However, any pay rise will result in an increase in pay for her first six weeks of leave, which is calculated at 90% of her earnings unless she usually earns less than SMP.

Redundancy consultation and selection

There is a myth that women on maternity leave cannot be selected for redundancy – this is not correct, although they obviously cannot be selected because they are on maternity leave. If a redundancy situation affects an employee on maternity leave they must be consulted about the proposed redundancy even though they are not at work. Although the woman may choose not to take part in discussions, she should at least be given the option.

If selection criteria are used, those on maternity leave must not be disadvantaged. For instance, if there are no recent appraisals or sales figures to consider, choose a time period when there is data available for everyone or look at alternative selection processes.

An employee on maternity leave should not be given preferential treatment which could lead to her male colleague being made redundant. For example, in a recent case an employer discriminated against a male employee when treating a woman on maternity leave more favourably.

Redundancy – alternative roles

If a woman on maternity leave is selected for redundancy then she does have enhanced rights – the employer must make positive efforts to find her similar roles elsewhere in the organisation, not just give her a link to the vacancies on the website. If there are vacancies that are suitable for her then she must be placed in this role without the need for competitive interview, ahead of other colleagues.

Bonuses

If a bonus is awarded to employees for a period where the woman has been on maternity leave for part of that period, then case law says an employer can pro-rate the bonus and pay it only for the time she was working. However, if the bonus is in respect of work done before the maternity leave, then this should be paid in full.

Reasons for dismissal

If a woman is dismissed while pregnant or on maternity leave then she is automatically entitled to written reasons for dismissal, without having to ask for them or without having to have a qualifying period of two years’ employment before she is entitled to them.

Keeping in touch days (KIT days)

An employee may work for up to 10 KIT days during her maternity leave without bringing her leave to an end or losing her SMP. The KIT days have to be agreed with the employer, the employee cannot insist upon them. Any work done on a day during maternity leave will count as a whole KIT day even if it is only for an hour or so.

Be very clear about how much an employee will be paid for working a keeping-in-touch day during her maternity leave, and whether her statutory maternity pay will be paid in addition to payment for the KIT day or offset against it.

Pay rise that coincides with pregnancy or maternity leave

Ensure that employees are not denied a pay rise that they would have received had they not been on maternity leave. Recalculate SMP entitlement by applying the increased level of pay to the whole of the SMP calculation period and bear in mind this recalculation will have to be done even when the pay review comes after the end of the paid period of maternity leave.

Be aware that a pay rise may result in an employee becoming entitled to SMP. Inform employees of the pay increase and pay any amount owing promptly. Keep records of any changes made in the payment of maternity pay.

Knowing what rights women have while on maternity leave is important to ensure the business is supporting and rewarding employees in accordance with the law. This is not only good for their people, but also for the employer’s reputation and for attracting and retaining the best talent.

If you need any help at all email me at nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk.