Employment Law - Statutory Maternity Leave
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10 March 2011
Within the employment realm, there are a whole set of rights afforded
to pregnant women including, generally, paid time off for antenatal
care, maternity leave, maternity pay benefits and protection against
unfair treatment or dismissal. The focus of this article is Statutory
Women are under obligation to notify their
employer that they are pregnant at least 15 weeks before the beginning
of the week their baby is due, or as soon as possible. The employer
should also be notified as to when the woman intends to begin her
Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay.
All pregnant women, however long they have
been in their jobs, are entitled to reasonable time off work for
antenatal care. Any time off will be paid at the normal rate of pay and
any employer that refuses to do this is in breach of the law. An
employer has the right to ask for evidence of antenatal appointments
from the second appointment onwards.
Statutory Maternity Leave
Regardless of whether a
woman decides to take SML, it is mandatory that she take two weeks off
after her baby is born, or four weeks if she works in a factory. This
is called compulsory maternity leave. To allow a woman to return to
work before this time is a criminal offence.
Employees have the right to 26 weeks of
Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity
Leave (AML) making one year in total. The combined 52 weeks is known as
Statutory Maternity Leave (SML).
To qualify for SML a woman must be an
employee (as opposed to an independent contractor). If she is an
employee and she gives her employer the correct notice, she can take
SML despite the length of time she has been employed with that
particular employer, and despite the number of hours she works or pay
SML can be commenced anytime from 11 weeks
before the beginning of the week when the baby is due. If a woman is
off work due to pregnancy related reasons within four weeks of the
expected birth date, the employer can make her start her SML then.
While a woman is on SML, her employment
terms and conditions are strictly protected. The woman keeps her normal
employment rights and benefits (excluding wages) throughout all of her
SML. This may include benefits such as a company car or a mobile phone,
however, if the benefit is provided for business use, an employer may
be able to suspend it.
All entitlements to paid holiday are built
up throughout SML regardless of whether the employment contract states
the woman is entitled to more than the statutory minimum.
It is automatically unfair and automatic
sex discrimination for an employer to select a woman for redundancy or
dismiss her for a reason connected with maternity leave, birth or
An employer can make a woman redundant
while she is on maternity leave if they can fairly justify their
choice. For example, an employer might close a department of their
business and make all employees in that section redundant. However, if
an employer makes general staff cuts, they cannot make a woman
redundant because she is on or is about to take maternity leave.
If a woman is made redundant whilst on SML
then she has the right to be offered any suitable alternative job in
the company. This is even if there are other employees that might be
more suitable for the job. If a woman is made redundant or dismissed
during SML her employer must provide a written statement explaining the
reasons for their decision.
During SML an employer is entitled to make
reasonable contact with a woman for business related reasons which
could be to provide updates on any significant changes in the workplace
or any opportunities for promotion or job vacancies, for example.
A woman can work up to ten days' during
her SML without losing her (SMP), Maternity Allowance or ending her
leave. These are called keeping in touch days - and may only be worked
if both the woman and her employer agrees to it.
When returning to work after OML (the
first 26 weeks of SML), a woman has the right to the same job and the
same terms and conditions as if she had not been away.
This also applies when a woman returns
after AML (the last 26 weeks of SML).
It is correct for an employer to assume
that a woman will take all 52 weeks of her SML. If she opts to take the
full 52 weeks, it is not mandatory for her to give notice that she is
coming back. If she decides to return earlier, for example, when her
SMP ends, she must give at least eight weeks' notice. If she fails to
do this, an employer can insist that she does not return until the
eight weeks have passed. A woman is obligated to inform her employer if
she is returning to work early or wants to change the date of her
return. If she decides not to return to work at all, she must give the
employer notice in the normal way.
(Waheedan.Jariwalla@lawdit.co.uk) is a US attorney and a Solicitor who
specialises in contentious and non-contentious issues.
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2011-03-16 13:21:02 in Legal Articles