Employees who are pregnant can be entitled to paid maternity leave and leave of absence. In addition, they’re entitled to take paid time off work on medical advice to attend antenatal appointments.
An employee can be asked to produce a medical certificate or appointment card, except in the case of her first request for time off.
Managers should not unreasonably refuse time off for antenatal care and cannot ask employees to work additional hours to make up for any time spent at antenatal appointments.
In addition, they're protected against unfair treatment or dismissal based on requesting or taking maternity leave, and they have a right to bring a complaint to an employment tribunal if they are denied or delayed their maternity leave, which may result in you paying them compensation
From a health and safety point of view, you should do a risk assessment around their role to ensure that their duties, hours, work location, etc. need modifying at all to fit in with their pregnancy.
How is maternity leave arranged?
To take maternity leave, the employee must notify you that she is pregnant, including details of the expected week of childbirth (EWC) and the date she would like to begin her leave.
This information should be given to you by the end of the 15th week before the estimated week of childbirth (referred to as ‘the qualifying week’, or ‘QW’).
As an employer, you must then write to the employee within 28 days to confirm when her maternity leave ends and when she is expected to return to work.
How much maternity leave is an employee entitled to?
By law, an employee is entitled to a total of 52 weeks:
• 26 weeks of what is legally called ‘ordinary maternity leave’ (referred to as ‘OML’)
• Followed by up to 26 weeks of ‘additional maternity leave’ (referred to as ‘AML’).
While the amount of leave taken is largely flexible for employees, at least 2 weeks immediately after the birth (4 weeks for people who work in factories) must be taken by law.
When does this statutory maternity leave start?
Any time after the 11th week prior to the EWC.
However, if the employee gives birth earlier than expected, maternity leave starts the day after the day of birth.
Or, if within the 4 weeks leading up to the EWC, the employee is absent because of their pregnancy (and not for any other reason), the maternity leave starts the day after the first day of absence.
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