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Maternity leave: what is the employer’s responsibility?

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As an employer, managing maternity leave is an inevitable part of business and executing it correctly can make the difference between a happy workforce or a disgruntled one!

You may worry that your team will be left overstretched, that a crucial cog in your machine is missing or that the reduced skill set will hurt productivity and be felt throughout your business.

Traditionally, you have had two options; carry on without a replacement and a strained team or recruit a temporary team member to fit the bill.  Both these options work to varying degrees, but is there another way?

What are maternity rights?

Maternity leave continues to be a hot topic especially if handled poorly, pushing employees to leave and potentially discouraging new employees from joining the company. In fact, in 2017 it was estimated to cost employers around £278.8m when women felt force to leave their job due to potential discrimination or disadvantage. - Equality and Human Rights Commission -Research report 105

In the UK, employees have the right to 52 weeks of maternity leave; the first 26 considered ordinary or standard maternity leave, the remainder known as ‘additional maternity leave’, with 39 weeks of the whole considered paid leave through one channel or another.

A large number of employers offer contractual maternity pay, the exact amount and how long it is available for is dependent upon the individual contract of employment; 26 weeks at a full pay rate followed by a period of reduced pay for the remaining period is not uncommon.

Irrespective of contractual specifics the UK’s social security system provides 39 weeks of paid maternity leave with the first six weeks paying 90% of average weekly earnings and the following 33 at a rate of £145.18 per week. – GOV.UK - Maternity, Adoption and paternity calculator for employers.

It is important to make sure all legalities are set out as a standard in your company and agreed by each new employee so that when the situation arises, there is no scope for discrimination.

Once you have taken care of your employee who is going on maternity leave, it is time to access how the maternity leave will affect your business, and how to best manage this.  

How to manage maternity leave?

Ultimately, each employee is different and so each maternity leave will affect your business differently. The key in every instance is a good handover, planning and communication.

Sitting down with your employee before they start maternity leave and setting out a full job spec will allow you to identify which tasks can be absorbed naturally by other team members, and which require a different solution. If you are planning on advertising for a temporary role, this may also make handovers easier and clarify expectations for the new worker.

Outsourcing the more specialised elements of the role externally allows for support for the exact amount of time you need it and negates the issue of recruiting a temporary worker who is available from the day maternity leave starts, to when it finishes.
Outsourcing is also a more economical solution as you will be avoiding recruitment costs and training time.

In conclusion, if you are a larger company, and maternity leave is a situation that occurs regularly, a scalable contract with a handover and backup option such as SmartPA can ensure a stress-free, enjoyable change in roles for all concerned.

Introducing clear policies and procedures along with a handover and back-up system to follow also means employees are less likely to feel personally discriminated and will ensure that their transition out and back into the company is as smooth as possible.
It will also mean that as an employer, there isn’t a panic scramble to sort out maternity leave cover on a case by case basis. 

If you want to know more about how SmartPA can support you or your company’s maternity leave with remote specialist assistance engaged on a temporary basis, please call 0845 241 3372 or visiting our dedicated web page here.