Maternity Policy

1. Eligibility

1.1 A pregnant female employee is entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave which is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave regardless of her length of service.

1.2 All women are required by law to take a minimum of 2 weeks off following the birth of their baby.

1.3 An employee can start her maternity leave at any point in the 11 weeks before the expected week that her baby is due.

1.4 To qualify for maternity leave, an employee must tell their manager by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth:

  • that she is pregnant
  • the expected week of childbirth
  • the date she intends to start maternity leave. This can normally be any date between the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and the birth

2. Entitlement to Maternity Leave and Pay

2.1 An employee’s maternity leave entitlement is based on the date that her maternity leave commences i.e. 52 weeks from the date she begins her maternity leave.

2.2 Full details of maternity leave and pay entitlements can be found in Tables 1 and 2.

3. Notification Process

3.1 When an employee discovers that she is pregnant she should talk to her manager and complete a notification letter attaching a copy of the MATB1 form when she is given this by her midwife or doctor, usually around the 20th week of her pregnancy.

3.2 Once HR have received the employee’s notification letter, HR will write to the employee within 28 days confirming the start and end dates for her maternity leave.

3.3 An employee must give her manager notice in writing of her intention to take maternity leave, a minimum of 28 days before the week that her baby is due.

3.4 An employee must give her manager at least 28 days notice in writing if she wants to change the date that she starts her maternity leave. HR should also be notified since this may affect an individual’s pay.

An employee must also notify her manager if she is:

  • Taken into legal custody during their maternity leave
  • If she starts work during the maternity pay period for another employer after her baby is born

In either of these cases the Council will not pay maternity leave.

3.5 An employee must notify their manager if her baby arrives before the date she has previously notified that she intends to start her maternity leave since this will affect her maternity pay.

3.6 An employee should be encouraged to have a meeting with HR to discuss their entitlements and they should be referred to the intranet for further information.

4. Risk Assessment (Health & Safety)

4.1 A manager must undertake a risk assessment when an employee tells them that she is pregnant. The Risk Assessment Form can be found in the Forms section on the intranet and further guidance on how to undertake an assessment in the Guidance section.

A risk assessment must also be undertaken with employees who have given birth or miscarried within the last 6 months and returned to work, or those who are still breastfeeding.

4.2 If any risks or hazards to the employee are identified through the risk assessment or in any other way, her manager may need to take a number of steps including:

  • Changing the employee’s working conditions or hours
  • Rearranging or reallocating her work
  • Offering her suitable alternative work
  • Suspending her from work on maternity grounds with pay for as long as is necessary to protect her and her unborn child’s health.

4.3 If an employee has a medical certificate stating that certain work is damaging her health, then her manager must take steps to find her suitable alternative work with terms and conditions that are not substantially less favourable.

4.4 If an employee unreasonably refuses to co-operate with health and safety measures, they should not be allowed to work and the Council does not have to continue to pay them but in this situation HR advice should be sought. A manager can refer a pregnant employee, (especially one employed in manual work), to Occupational Health for advice and support.

5. Antenatal Care

5.1 All pregnant employees, regardless of their length of service or hours of work are entitled to paid time off work for antenatal care. A manager can request the employee to provide evidence of these appointments and the employee should give her manager reasonable advance warning of her need for time off.

5.2 An expectant father, or the partner of a pregnant woman, is entitled to take unpaid time off work to attend up to 2 antenatal appointments with their partner. An employee does not have to make up this time. An employee requesting this type of leave should complete the Declaration document in the forms section.

6. Sickness during Pregnancy

6.1 If an employee is absent from work during the four weeks before the expected week of childbirth due to illness that is certified as being unrelated to pregnancy, it will be treated as sick leave. The employee can remain on sick leave until the date of the baby’s birth or until the date notified as the commencement of maternity leave.

6.2 If an employee is absent from work on pregnancy related grounds (wholly or partly) within the 4 weeks before her baby is due, she must commence her maternity leave even if she has previously notified her manager of her intention to work on beyond this point.

6.3 If an employee is sick during the 4 weeks prior to the week in which the baby is due, for reasons unrelated to the pregnancy she is entitled to sick pay in accordance with the usual procedure.

6.4 Odd days of pregnancy related illness may be disregarded at the employer’s discretion if the employee wishes to defer the start of her maternity leave. However, her manager should seek advice from HR before agreeing to this.

7. Non-Pay Benefits during Maternity Leave

7.1 An employee will continue to receive non-pay benefits such as a Lease Car and access to Salary Sacrifice Schemes during her paid and unpaid maternity leave.

7.2 Annual leave will accrue during paid and unpaid maternity leave but the rules for carrying over annual leave from one leave year to the next will apply. Employees on Council terms and conditions will be allowed to accrue bank holidays during maternity leave but not employees on NHS terms and conditions, (unless they would normally work them).

7.3 In exceptional circumstances where an employee is not able to take her annual leave at a time outside her maternity leave, she may be allowed to carry the remaining period of leave from one leave year into the next.

Exceptional circumstances could be the early birth of her child, pregnancy related sickness absence or where a women’s maternity leave overlaps with the annual leave year to a significant extent.

An employee’s manager should discuss with her the arrangements relating to her annual leave prior to the start of their maternity leave.

7.4 An employee who changes her working hours e.g. going from full-time to part-time when she returns from maternity leave will have her annual leave reduced accordingly, including any leave accrued when working full time. A manager is therefore advised to encourage their employee to take any leave accrued when working full-time, before reducing their hours. This does not apply to staff on NHS terms and conditions.

8. Pensions

8.1 An employee in the Local Government pension scheme (LGPS) will continue to pay basic contributions on any pay they receive whilst on Maternity Leave. However, any period of unpaid additional maternity will not count for pension purposes unless the employee chooses to pay Additional Pension Contributions (APCs) on their return to work, to purchase the amount of pension lost.

8.2 If an employee wishes to purchase the amount of lost pension and chooses to do so within 30 days of returning to work, then the cost of the APC is split between them and Harrow Council. The employee will pay one-third of the cost and Harrow Council will pay the rest. If the individual decides after 30 days of returning to work, they will have to pay for the full cost of the APCs.

8.3 The employee can pay the additional contributions in a one-off lump sum or through regular payments from salary. The maximum period of absence they can choose to buy back is 3 years.

8.4 A formal decision must be sent to the Pensions Office, in writing, when the employee returns from maternity leave. Click here for LGPS  Pension information Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Parental leave

8.5 If the employee is a member of the NHS Pension scheme she will be asked to pay pension contributions based on the actual amount of pay she receives during her maternity leave. The Council will pay its normal contributions on her salary. If the employee wishes to pay contributions during her unpaid maternity leave this will be based on the rate of pay she was on immediately before her unpaid leave started.

Click here for NHS Pension Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Parental Leave Factsheet

8.6 If the employee cannot afford to pay pension contributions during her maternity leave these can be paid when she returns to work. This must be done over a reasonable period of time agreed between the individual and the Council.

8.7 An employee should be encouraged to discuss the implications of not paying contributions during this period with the HR Service Centre who can be contacted on:

9. Sickness at the end of Maternity Leave

9.1 Once the employee has notified her manager of her intended return date, she can delay her return to work if she presents a Doctor's certificate stating that she is not yet fit to return. The employee will be paid sick pay from her intended date of return.

9.2 In cases of long spells of sickness absence or serious illness the employee should be referred to Occupational Health before her return to work.

10. Returning to work

10.1 The law requires that an employee must not work during the first two weeks following the birth of the child. It is an offence to allow a woman to work during this period and the Council may incur a fine.

10.2 An employee does not have to give notice of her return to work unless she plans to return earlier than 52 weeks in which case she must give her manager 21 days notice in writing.

10.3 An employee is entitled to return to work for the same number of hours in the same or a similar post in which she was employed prior to maternity leave (as specified in her contract), on terms and conditions no less favourable than those which would have applied had she not taken maternity leave.

10.4 If it is not possible due to reorganisation etc, for an employee to return to her original post, she must be offered suitable alternative employment on terms and conditions not less favourable than if she had been able to return to the job in which she was originally employed. Advice must be sought from HR in these circumstances.

10.5 An employee with 26 weeks of continuous service with the Council has the right to request flexible working provided that she applies in writing and has not made a flexible working request in the previous 12 months.

11. Failure to Return to Work

11.1 If an employee on Council terms and conditions fails to return to work at the end of her maternity leave for a minimum period of 3 months, (having previously said that she plans to return), she will have to refund her maternity pay less any statutory pay she may have received.

11.2 If an employee on NHS terms and conditions fails to return to work at the end of her maternity leave for a minimum period of 3 months to the Council or to an NHS employer within 15 months of beginning her maternity leave, (having previously said that she plans to return), she will have to refund the whole of her maternity pay less any statutory pay she may have received.

12. Dismissal during Pregnancy (including Redundancy)

12.1 A Manager must consult Human Resources in potential cases of dismissal including redundancy.

13. Facilities for Returning Mothers

13.1 A manager needs to ensure that facilities are made available for women who return to work and are still nursing.

Click here for ACAS guide to accommodating breastfeeding and Maternity in the workplace

14. Temporary and Fixed Term Contracts

14.1 An employee on a temporary or fixed-term contract will be entitled to maternity benefits according to her length of service, (see Tables 1 and 2).

14.2 If an employee on a temporary or fixed term contract informs her manager that she is pregnant, her manager should contact HR for advice, since she may have the right to return to work following her maternity leave if she is found suitable alternative employment before the end of her employment under her existing contract.

14.3 If suitable alternative employment is found for the employee, her new role will take effect immediately on the ending of her employment under her previous contract.

14.4 If an employee is on NHS terms and conditions on a fixed term or training contract which expires after the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and she meets the continuous service requirements in Table 2, her contract will be extended to enable her to receive the 52 weeks (which includes the 39 weeks paid contractual and statutory maternity pay), and the remaining 13 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

14.5 An employee on a fixed-term contact who does not meet the 12 months continuous service condition may still be entitled to Statutory Maternity pay.

15. Maternity Cover

15.1 If a manager needs to recruit to cover maternity leave they must do so in accordance with the ‘Temporary and Fixed Term Employees’ Policy unless they are covering their vacancy with an agency worker.

15.2 If an employee does not return to work following maternity leave her post must be advertised in line with the ‘Recruitment’ Policy and the ‘Manager’s Recruitment Guide’.

16. Keeping in Touch (KIT)

16.1 An employee and her manager are encouraged to keep in touch during her maternity leave. An employee can work up to 10 KIT days during her maternity leave but her manager cannot insist on giving her work and she cannot insist on being given work.

Work can include training or any activity undertaken for the purposes of keeping in touch with the workplace. Working for part of a day will count as one day.

16.2 If an employee works during her maternity leave she will receive her normal rate of pay.

16.3 An employee’s maternity leave will not be extended if she works KIT days.