Maternity leave and its impact on employers

Although the announcement of an impending birth is always a joy, it can be a worry for employers who may be left wondering what the impact will be on their business.

According to a recent survey carried out by Procter and Gamble, six out of 10 mothers said it took them up to four months to adjust to working after returning from maternity leave. Almost half (40 per cent) of those interviewed said that they went back to work because of financial pressure. The findings highlight the fact that mothers coming back into the workplace after time off can find it challenging and lack the confidence they had previously when doing their job.

Though many businesses have differing rules where maternity leave for employees is concerned, the government’s guidelines stipulate that employers must:

  • offer up to 52 weeks maternity leave – the first 26 weeks is referred to as ‘ordinary maternity leave’ and the remaining 26 weeks is known as ‘additional maternity leave’
  • pay statutory maternity pay (SMP) to eligible employees for the first six weeks – up to 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings (AWE) and the remaining 33 weeks at £136.78 or 90 per cent of their AWE (whichever is the lowest)

Employers can choose to offer more than the statutory amount, which many do as part of a company maternity scheme. Any such policies and procedures need to be as clear and transparent as possible when advising employees.

Employers also have the right to request a minimum of 15 weeks’ notice before the date of expected childbirth, allowing them time to plan for the maternity leave in a way that best suits the company. This may include putting measures in place for another member of staff to take on part of the expectant mother’s role, or bringing in a new employee to cover leave. Such planning is not afforded for other types of absences.

At Palmers Solicitors, we can advise on all aspects of employment law, including those surrounding maternity and paternity rights. For more information and guidance, please visit our website or contact Lara Murray, Karl Barnes or Charlotte Woolven-Brown.