Practice management: One of my employees is pregnant – what do we both need to do?

Employment law adviser Janice Sibbald offers advice on the responsibilities of both employer and employee during pregnancy.

PREGNANCY can be an exciting but also anxious time for an employee and there are certain obligations to ensure that they receive the correct leave and pay.

In terms of employment law, it is a highly regulated area so this article will try to guide you through what both the employer and the employee are required to do.

Notification

The pregnant employee must notify you of her pregnancy by the end of her 15th week before the EWC (expected week of childbirth) and give you a MATB1 form once she has received this from her doctor/midwife. She must let you know 11 weeks before her due date when she intends to begin her maternity leave and you should respond in writing to her within 28 days of receiving this information. If the employee wishes to change this date then she’s required to give you eight weeks’ notice.

Paid time off

All pregnant women, regardless of their length of service, are entitled to reasonable paid time off to attend antenatal appointments and, with the exception of the first appointment, you can ask for evidence such as an appointment card.

Assessing workplace risks

You should carry out a health and safety risk assessment to ensure that no element of the job poses a risk to the mother or child. Take action to remove any risks identified. Where this isn’t possible, you could offer adjustment to her working conditions or hours, offer suitable alternative work or in the most extreme cases, suspend on full pay.

Maternity leave

All pregnant employees are entitled to maternity leave regardless of how long they have been working for you. They can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave and this is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. If both parties agree, the employee can come into the practice for up to 10 “keeping in touch” days without it affecting her pay.

Maternity pay

This is slightly different than paid time off. To be eligible for maternity pay, they have to have worked with you for 26 weeks before the 15th week of their due date. If they qualify then they will receive 39 weeks maternity pay, but their employment contract may allow for enhanced maternity pay. Women who don’t qualify for maternity pay may be eligible for maternity allowance, which is paid by the government rather than the employer.

Return to work

Employers usually assume the employee will take all 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave. If this is the worker’s intention, then she doesn’t need to give notice of her return but it is helpful to do so. If the employee wants to return earlier, then she must give at least eight weeks’ notice. Also if she wishes to change the amount of hours she works on return then a flexible working application process should be followed. Read more about employees returning from maternity leave in this advice article.

Further advice

If you need any further advice on part-time working, maternity or breastfeeding obligations then please do not hesitate to contact us at advice@mddus.com

Janice Sibbald is an employment law adviser at MDDUS

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