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Maternity policy

Policy purpose and scope

The aim of this policy is to inform employees of their maternity rights and entitlements and to outline The Pensions Regulator’s maternity leave and pay procedures.

We are fully committed to helping working parents balance the needs of work and family life and to providing support to new mothers during the first year of a child’s life.

We make every effort to encourage women to return to work following maternity leave.

Our maternity rights are either equal to or better than statutory maternity rights. Any statutory entitlements are absorbed into our more generous provisions (not additional to).

This policy applies to all employees and is non-contractual.

1. Eligibility

All pregnant employees, regardless of length of service, are entitled to 52 weeks' maternity leave, consisting of 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave (OML) followed by 26 weeks additional maternity leave (AML). There must be no gap between the two.

It is up to you to decide how much maternity leave to take but a minimum of two weeks’ leave must be taken immediately following the birth. Only one period of leave will be available irrespective of whether more than one child (e.g. twins) results from the pregnancy.

The definition of childbirth, for the purpose of determining eligibility for the statutory schemes, means the live birth of a child, or a still birth after a pregnancy lasting at least 24 weeks.

To qualify for maternity leave you must notify us by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (Qualifying Week) stating: that you are pregnant; the expected week of childbirth (EWC) and the date on which you intend to start your maternity leave.

You and your partner may also wish to consider taking shared parental leave. Please see the Shared Parental Leave policy for further details and procedure.

2. Start date of maternity leave

You can start your maternity leave any day on or after the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC) (unless your child is born prematurely before that date).

The latest that maternity leave can start is the day following the birth, if this is the date specified for the beginning of maternity leave.

You can postpone your intended start date by informing us in writing at least 28 days before the original intended start date, or if that is not possible, as soon as reasonably practicable.

You can bring forward the intended start date by informing us at least 28 days before the new start date, or if that is not possible, as soon as reasonably practicable.

Your maternity leave will start on the earliest of:

  • your intended start date (if notified to us in accordance with this policy)
  • the day after any day on which you are absent for a pregnancy-related reason during the four weeks before the EWC. If this happens you must let us know as soon as possible in writing. Maternity leave will be triggered unless we agree to delay it; or
  • the day after you give birth. If you give birth before your maternity leave was due to start, you must let us know the date of the birth in writing as soon as possible

Maternity leave will start automatically if:

  • you have a pregnancy-related sickness absence in any of the four weeks before the EWC
  • your baby is early; or
  • you miscarry after 24 weeks

Before you start your maternity leave, we will try to ensure we discuss with you the arrangements for covering your work and the opportunities for you to remain in contact, should you wish to do so, during your leave. The law prohibits you from working during the two weeks following childbirth.

Stillbirth or miscarriage

We will be as supportive as possible in the event of this sad circumstance arising.

If you suffer a miscarriage of your baby up to the 24th week of pregnancy, you will not qualify for maternity leave or pay. If you take a period of sickness absence from work you will be paid according to the Sickness Absence Management Policy. Periods of pregnancy-related sickness absence from the start of your pregnancy until the end of your maternity leave will be recorded separately from other sickness records and will be disregarded in any future employment-related decisions.

If you have a stillbirth after the 24th week of pregnancy or if you give birth prematurely to a living child after the 24th week of pregnancy where the baby later dies, you will be entitled to maternity leave in the usual way.

Terms and conditions during OML and AML

It is a legal requirement that all the terms and conditions of your employment remain in force during OML and AML, except for the terms relating to pay. In particular:

  • benefits in kind will continue
  • annual leave entitlement under your contract will continue to accrue; and
  • pension benefits will continue

3. Notification of maternity plans: periods of notice

Informing your manager

You should tell your manager no later than the 15th week before the EWC:

  • that you are pregnant
  • the date of the expected week of childbirth (EWC) starting on a Sunday. A medical certificate (form MAT B1) from your doctor or midwife will be required; and
  • the date on which you would like to start your maternity leave

You are not obliged to let us know that you are pregnant until the end of the 15th week before your EWC, but it would be helpful if you could do this as early as possible so that your manager can begin to:

  • carry out a health and safety risk assessment
  • notify HR of pregnancy and maternity leave plans
  • plan your paid time off for antenatal care, which is a statutory right
  • arrange cover during your absence; and
  • plan your return to work

Once you have given your MAT B1 stating the expected week of childbirth to your manager, it will be passed to HR who will then write to you within 28 days setting out:

  • your entitlements to maternity leave and pay
  • the date on which you are expected to return to work (assuming you take your full entitlement to maternity leave)
  • your duty to notify us if there is any change to your plans
  • dates that salary payments are due; and
  • a reminder that you must return to work for at least three months following the end of your maternity leave or refund the salary payments that are in excess of SMP

Changing your start / return date

If you want to change your agreed start date, you must give your manager 28 days’ written notice (unless this is not reasonably practicable). If you want to change your agreed return date, you must give 56 days’ written notice.

4. Returning to work following maternity leave

You can return to work:

  • no earlier than the two week compulsory maternity leave period which immediately follows birth
  • no later than your statutory maternity entitlement

We will advise you in writing (28 days after you inform us of the date on which you intend your maternity leave to start) of your expected return date. This will be 52 weeks after the date on which your maternity leave starts. If your start date has been changed (either because you gave us notice to change it, or because maternity leave started early due to illness or premature childbirth) we will write to you within 28 days of the start of maternity leave with a revised expected return date. To change the agreed date of return you must give your manager 56 calendar days’ notice. Your manager will notify HR.

If you wish to return to work earlier than the expected return date, you must give us eight weeks' notice in writing. If you do not give enough notice, we may postpone your return date until eight weeks after you gave notice, or to the expected return date if sooner.

If you wish to return later than the expected return date, please let us know and we will discuss with you available options (eg such as parental leave).

It would be helpful if you could inform your manager and HR as early as possible if you decide you do not want to return to work after maternity leave.

You have the right to return to work:

  • to the same job on the same terms and conditions after 26 weeks leave (OML) unless a redundancy situation has arisen during your maternity leave and for that reason it is not reasonably practicable for you to return to your old job. In this case you are entitled to be offered any suitable vacancy on terms and conditions which are no less favourable; or
  • to the same job on the same terms and conditions if you return during or on completion of the second 26 week maternity leave period (AML) unless a redundancy situation has occurred or there is some other reason why it is not practicable for you to go back to your original job. In this case you are entitled to be offered any suitable vacancy on terms and conditions which are no less favourable than your original job

Your right to return will be retained if you:

  • take parental leave of four weeks or less immediately after maternity leave because parental leave has its own statutory right of return (see the Parental Leave Policy for more information); or
  • take two consecutive periods of maternity leave

Shortly before you are due to return to work, we may invite you to have a discussion (whether in person or by telephone) about the arrangements for your return. This will be to assist you in making a successful transition back to work. This may be completed during one of your keeping in touch days (explained below) prior to the date you are due to return. This may cover:

  • updating you on any changes that have occurred during your absence
  • any training needs you might have; and
  • any changes to working arrangements (for example if you have made a request to work flexibly)

Flexible working

If you wish to continue working after the birth of your child but would find it difficult to do this on a full time basis, we will seriously consider any written request to vary your work pattern, eg to part time or job sharing, and we will try to accommodate your wishes unless there is a justifiable reason for refusal, bearing in mind the needs of our business.

We will treat your request as sympathetically as possible, however we are not obliged to accommodate all requests. It is helpful if requests are made as early as possible.

For more information see the Flexible Working Policy.

Resigning instead of returning to work

If you want to resign after maternity leave instead of returning to work you must give the period of notice stated in your contract of employment. See the maternity pay section of this policy for details of the repayment you will have to make.

You will receive payment in lieu of any annual leave not taken.

Redundancies during maternity leave

In the event that your post is affected by a redundancy situation occurring during your maternity leave, we will write to you to inform you of any proposals. We will also invite you to a meeting before any final decision is reached as to your continued employment. Employees on maternity leave will be given first refusal on any suitable alternative vacancies that are appropriate to their skills.

5. Antenatal appointments

You are entitled to take paid time off for antenatal appointments which have been recommended by a doctor, midwife or health visitor.

You should try to arrange appointments at the most convenient times for the office (at the beginning or end of the working day, for example) wherever possible.

Part-time staff and staff who do not work a five day week should try to arrange their appointments on a day they do not work.

You do not have to prove that you have an appointment unless your manager asks you to do so. You must enter your medical appointment onto the flexitime system for your manager to approve.

Fathers / partners have a statutory right to unpaid time off to attend two of your antenatal appointments. See the Time Off For Antenatal Appointments – Father / Partner Policy.

6. Annual leave

Annual leave may be taken before or after but not during maternity leave.

If you wish to take some annual leave before going on maternity leave so that you can extend the period you are paid you should agree this with your manager in the normal way. Similarly, you may also take annual leave at the end of the paid or unpaid maternity leave, again subject to your manager's agreement.

Annual leave continues to accrue during both OML and AML.

If you are on maternity leave at the end of the annual leave year you may carry over any untaken annual leave days to the following leave year.

You should discuss your holiday plans with us in good time before starting your maternity leave. All holiday dates are subject to approval by us/your manager.

You will be given time off in lieu for any public holidays that occur during your maternity leave (pro rata if you are part time).

7. Maternity pay

We offer maternity pay that exceeds statutory provisions to employees with 26 weeks' continuous employment by the 15th week before the expected date of childbirth prior to taking maternity leave.

Statutory entitlement to maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is payable for up to 39 weeks. SMP will stop being payable if you return to work (except where you are using keeping in touch days as detailed below). You are entitled to SMP if:

  • you have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks at the end of the Qualifying Week and are still employed by us during that week
  • your average weekly earnings during the eight weeks ending with the Qualifying Week (the Relevant Period) are not less than the lower earnings limit set by the government
  • you provide us with a doctor's or midwife's certificate (MAT B1 form) stating your EWC
  • you give at least 28 days' notice (or, if that is not possible, as much notice as you can) of your intention to take maternity leave; and
  • you are still pregnant 11 weeks before the EWC or have already given birth

SMP is paid:

  • at 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks; and
  • at a prescribed rate which is set by the government for the relevant tax year (Earnings-Related Rate), or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

SMP accrues from the day on which you commence your OML and thereafter at the end of each complete week of absence. SMP payments are made on the next normal payroll date and income tax, National Insurance and pension contributions are deducted as appropriate.

You are still eligible for SMP if you leave employment for any reason after the start of the Qualifying Week (for example, if you resign or are made redundant). In such cases, if your maternity leave has not already begun, SMP starts to accrue in whichever is the later of:

  • the week following the week in which employment ends; or
  • the eleventh week before the EWC

If you become eligible for a pay rise before the end of your maternity leave, you will be treated for SMP purposes as if the pay rise had applied throughout the Relevant Period.

This means that your SMP will be recalculated and increased retrospectively, or that you may qualify for SMP if you did not previously qualify. We will pay you a lump sum to make up the difference between any SMP already paid and the amount payable by virtue of the pay rise. Any future SMP payments at the Earnings-Related Rate (if any) will also be increased as necessary.

If you have been continuously employed for less than 26 weeks into the qualifying week, you are not entitled to SMP. You may be eligible to claim up to 39 weeks Maternity Allowance (MA) instead. This is paid directly by Jobcentre Plus offices. If you are not eligible for MA you may be eligible to claim income support or other benefits. See the government services site for further information.

Entitlement to our enhanced maternity pay

If you meet the SMP qualifying criteria set out above, you will be entitled to receive:

  • weeks 1 to 26 on full pay (SMP topped up to the equivalent of your contractual salary “enhanced maternity pay”)
  • weeks 27 to 39 on SMP; and
  • weeks 40 to 52 are unpaid

If you have received enhanced maternity pay during the maternity leave period you must return to work for at least three months or refund the salary payments that are in excess of SMP.

8. Health and safety

We are required to protect the health and safety of new and expectant mothers by carrying out a risk assessment. We will identify any preventive and protective measures that we consider we need to take. We will take such steps as necessary to avoid any risks identified affecting your health and safety as a new or expectant mother or that of your baby.

This may involve:

  • changing your working conditions or hours of work
  • offering you suitable alternative work on terms and conditions that are the same or not substantially less favourable; or
  • suspending you from duties, which will be on full pay unless you have unreasonably refused suitable alternative work, until such time as you are able to resume your duties

We may contact occupational health, if required, in order to seek confidential advice and guidance as to how to support your health and well-being.

Back to work

If you return to work within six months of giving birth, or if you are still breastfeeding, you must inform your manager so they can undertake a risk assessment.

Your manager must inform HR if you are breastfeeding in order that arrangements can be made for you to be provided with a place to rest and to store expressed milk.

9. Keeping in touch

During your maternity leave, we encourage reasonable contact with you from time to time. You will be kept informed of any organisational developments which may impact you.

Keep in touch (KIT) days

Subject to your manager’s agreement, you may carry out up to 10 days’ paid work during the leave period without bringing your maternity leave period to an end and without losing statutory maternity pay (SMP). Note that this excludes the period of the first two weeks after childbirth when it is illegal to work.

Payment for each day will be the equivalent of a day's contractual salary (inclusive of any maternity pay entitlement).

This is a voluntary arrangement with no compulsion on either side and must be discussed and agreed with us beforehand. It is a 'keeping in touch' initiative to help ease the return to work and will be especially beneficial if training is required or in times of organisational change.

Your manager will inform HR of days worked and HR will process any payment due.

If you attend a KIT day your manager may be required to carry out a specific risk assessment. This risk assessment will need to be undertaken where you:

  • have given birth in the previous 6 months; or
  • are breast feeding.

If you are simply coming into the office for a meeting about your return to work, then that doesn't count as "work", and no risk assessment will be necessary.

10. Grievance

If you feel that you have been treated unfairly whilst pregnant or on maternity leave you should first try to resolve your concerns with your manager and HR. If unsuccessful, you can bring a formal grievance under the Grievance Policy.