An HR Guide To Maternity & Paternity Leave In The UK
March 24, 2023
Maternity and paternity leave are important benefits for employees because they provide new parents with the necessary time off to care for their newborn child or newly adopted child. These types of leaves are designed to allow parents to bond with their child, recover from childbirth and adjust to the new demands of parenthood without worrying about the impact on their job or financial stability.
The HR department plays a crucial role in managing maternity and paternity leave. They are responsible for ensuring that the company complies with all relevant laws regarding these types of leaves. This includes communicating policies, eligibility requirements and procedures to employees, and facilitating the application and approval process. HR is also responsible for ensuring that the employee's job is protected during their leave and that they are able to return to work with minimal disruption.
Maternity leave in the UK
Who is eligible for maternity leave in the UK?
In the UK, employees may be eligible for maternity leave if they meet the following criteria:
They are an employee (not a worker or self-employed)
They have given their employer notice at least fifteen weeks before the baby’s due date
They must have worked continuously for the employer for at least 26 weeks leading up to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
If these criteria are met, employees in the UK are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The first 26 weeks are classed as Ordinary Maternity Leave and the second 26 weeks are called Additional Maternity Leave.
During this time, the employee is entitled to statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance, depending on their personal circumstances.
Types of maternity leave in the UK
In the UK, there are two types of maternity leave available to eligible employees. The first is Ordinary Maternity Leave. This is the first 26 weeks of leave and is available to all eligible employees. During this period, the employee is entitled to receive all contractual benefits, other than salary, and continue building up their annual leave as normal.
Another type of maternity leave is Additional Maternity Leave. This is the second 26 weeks of leave and is also available to eligible employees. During this period, the employee is not entitled to receive all contractual benefits, other than pension contributions, and is not required to increase their annual leave, but they are still entitled to receive statutory benefits such as maternity pay or maternity allowance.
Some employers may also offer enhanced maternity leave, which provides additional benefits such as an extended period of paid leave, flexible working arrangements, or other support services for new parents. Employees should check their employment contract or speak with their HR department to find out what maternity leave benefits are available to them.
What are the requirements for maternity leave in the UK?
To qualify for maternity leave in the UK, an employee must meet the requirements outlined above. In addition to those, notice must be given in writing, including the expected date of childbirth, the intended start date of maternity leave and confirmation of qualifying for maternity leave.
As well as this, employees may need to provide their employer with a MATB1 certificate, which is issued by a doctor or midwife and confirms the expected week of childbirth. This certificate is usually provided at around 20 weeks of pregnancy and should be given to the employer as soon as possible.
If an employee wishes to change their start date for maternity leave, they must provide their employer with at least 28 days' notice before the new start date. If they wish to return to work earlier or later than originally planned, they must give their employer at least 8 weeks' notice before the new return date.
Employee rights during maternity leave in the UK
In the UK, employees have certain rights during maternity leave to ensure that they are not discriminated against for taking time off to care for their child. During maternity leave, employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks of leave, regardless of how long they have worked for their employer. During this time, they are entitled to certain pay and benefits.
One option is Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). Eligible employees may be entitled to receive SMP for up to 39 weeks of their maternity leave. SMP is paid at 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks, and then at £156.66 or 90% of their average weekly earrings, whichever is lower, for the remaining 33 weeks.
If an individual does not qualify for SMP, they may be eligible for Maternity Allowance. This is paid directly by the government instead of the employer.
Other employee rights during maternity leave include having their employer contribute to their pension, accurate holiday and having the right to return to their job after maternity leave with the same terms and conditions as before.
Paternity leave in the UK
Who is eligible for paternity leave in the UK?
Paternity leave is offered to new fathers, partners of the new mother or adopter, a child’s adopter or an intended parent through a surrogacy arrangement.
Anyone who is eligible can take up to two weeks of paternity leave, provided they meet certain criteria outlined below.
What are the requirements for paternity leave in the UK?
To be eligible for paternity leave in the UK, employees must meet the following requirements:
They must be an employee (not a worker or self-employed).
They must have worked continuously for their employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
They must provide their employer with the correct notice period of at least 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth.
To take paternity leave, employees must provide their employer with written notice of their intention to take leave and the expected date of birth. They may also need to provide additional documentation, such as a birth certificate or an adoption certificate. Some employers may also request to see the MATB1 certificate.
Employee rights during paternity leave in the UK
Eligible employees who take paternity leave are entitled to certain rights and benefits. During paternity leave, employees are entitled to up to two weeks of leave, which can be taken all at once or in two separate blocks. During this time, employees may be entitled to statutory paternity pay (SPP) or paternity leave pay (PLP), which is paid at a standard rate.
Just like maternity leave, employees' employment rights are protected while they are on paternity leave, and they have the right to return to their job after their leave has ended.
Shared parental leave in the UK
Who is eligible for shared parental leave in the UK?
Parents may be eligible for shared parental leave if they meet the specified criteria. Both parents must have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth or adoption. Both must be responsible for the care of the child and meet the earnings threshold, which is currently £120 per week on average.
Shared parental leave allows parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay, which can be taken in blocks and can be split between the parents in any way they choose. It is important to note that not all employers offer shared parental leave, so employees should check their employment contract or speak with their employer or HR department to confirm their eligibility.
What are the requirements for shared parental leave in the UK?
To take shared parental leave, parents must provide their employer with the correct notice period, which is at least 8 weeks before the start of the leave. They must also provide evidence of eligibility, such as a birth certificate, an adoption certificate or a MATB1 certificate.
Employers may also request additional documentation, such as a declaration from the other parent or evidence of their eligibility for leave. It is important for employees to check their employment contract or speak with their employer or HR department to ensure they understand the notification and documentation requirements for shared parental leave.
Employee rights during shared parental leave in the UK
Just like both maternity and paternity leave, an individual using shared parental leave has all of their contracted rights - other than salary. This includes holiday pay and pension contributions. During shared parental leave, employees are entitled to statutory pay which is currently £151.97 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
All employees taking shared parental leave are protected from unfair treatment or dismissal and have the right to attend up to 20 ‘keeping in touch’ days during their leave.
How to manage parental leave in the UK
Managing maternity and paternity leave involves several best practices, including effective communication, flexibility, and support. Employers should communicate with the employee early on and establish a plan for leave and return to work.
Flexibility should be offered in terms of scheduling, work arrangements, and leave duration. Support should be provided to ensure employees have access to resources and information needed during the leave and transition back to work.
Employers can also offer additional benefits, such as paid leave or childcare support. Ultimately, employers can create a positive and supportive environment that benefits both the employee and the organization.
Employees returning to work after maternity or paternity leave have the legal right to return to the same job, or a similar one with the same terms and conditions. Employers must also provide reasonable adjustments for employees who have a disability.
Non-compliance with maternity and paternity leave regulations can result in legal action and financial consequences for employers. This can include employment tribunals, fines, and reputational damage. Failure to provide employees with their legal entitlements can also lead to low morale, decreased productivity, and high turnover rates.
Discrimination or retaliation against employees for taking leave is also illegal and can lead to legal action. In short, non-compliance with maternity and paternity leave regulations can have significant legal, financial, and reputational risks for employers, as well as negative impacts on employee morale and productivity.
March 24, 2023