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Maternity leave should be a major consideration for small businesses. It is an important legal obligation that, through a combination of employer and state, offers statutory maternity leave, statutory maternity pay, time off for antenatal care, and extra governmental help, dependent on circumstances.
However, drawing up a maternity leave policy can be challenging, especially if you don’t have in-house legal expertise. First, you need to make sure that your policy meets your statutory requirements. But in addition to that, you might want to offer extra perks. More generous maternity and paternity leave terms are a popular means by which small businesses can attract and retain talent, even if they don’t have the pull of their larger competitors.
There is a range of legal requirements that employers have when it comes to maternity policies. First, you must make sure that your maternity leave policy is easily available to all employees. For example, you might have hard copies in the office, or additionally you might publish it on your company intranet.
The key responsibilities can be split into leave and pay. For Statutory Maternity Leave, employees who have an employment contract and who give the correct notice are entitled to up to 52 weeks of leave. They can start their leave up to 11 weeks before the week in which the baby is due, and they are obliged to take at least two weeks after the birth, or four if they are a factory worker.
When it comes to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), employees may be eligible to be paid for up to 39 weeks. For the first six weeks, they must be paid at least 90 per cent of their average pre-tax earnings. For the following weeks, they are entitled to £140.98, or, again, 90 per cent of their average pre-tax earnings, whichever is lower.
As we’ve mentioned, as long as you are meeting your statutory requirements, you might also choose to craft a maternity policy that goes beyond the legal minimum. For example, your maternity leave policy might be more generous, or (perhaps more likely) you may opt to increase the pay to which new mothers are entitled. Remember that you will still have to deduct income tax and National Insurance contributions from pay during leave.
You should also bear in mind that you may be obliged to give paternity leave or shared parental leave (SPL). Employees who are eligible for SPL or shared parental pay may be able to take their leave in blocks, with periods of work in the middle.
It's important to remember that you cannot discriminate on the basis of gender when it comes to parental leave or pay. For example, it's likely to be unlawful to offer larger sums in maternity pay than in shared parental pay.
This customisable maternity leave policy template for small business allows you to tweak the document to ensure that it is right for both you and your employees, and is available in either PDF or Word format.
When communicating maternity leave policies to your employees, remember that all employment rights are protected during the period, including pay rises, holiday, and return to work practices.
If you would like to make changes and don’t have Adobe Acrobat, you can also download our maternity leave policy template in Word format.
This document has been produced by Clarkslegal so we can’t take responsibility for its contents. We'd recommend you take professional advice before making any important decisions based on its contents.
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