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Maternity Leave & Maternity Leave Cover | Employers Guide

As an employer, being told that your employee is expecting a baby can bring up a huge range of emotions.

Many employers are happy and excited for their employee to embark on this wonderful journey.

However, losing a valued employee for anything up to 52 weeks can leave a big gap in your team. 

Top tips for employers

Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to ensure the whole process runs smoothly.

With that in mind, we have put together our top tips for managing maternity leave.  

Your employees right to maternity leave 

Expectant mothers have the right to 52 weeks maternity leave.

The first 26 weeks is known as ordinary maternity leave, and the second 26 weeks as additional maternity leave.  

To be entitled to this the employee must inform their employer at least 15 weeks before the baby is due that they are pregnant, the expected week of childbirth and the date they wish to start maternity leave.  

For more information on the legal details of maternity leave, view this article from ACAS

Plan ahead 

The earlier you can make a plan the better. Fortunately, the majority of parents want to get organised ahead of time as well.   

Remember, you are not only planning for the actual period of maternity leave.

You are also planning for the interim period before maternity leave.

Depending on the role, you may need to make adjustments as they get closer to the birth.

Are there any parts of their job they will find difficult whilst heavily pregnant? 

Sit down and discuss their role  

Before you can make a plan, you need to do some fact-finding.

Have a meeting with your employee and get a clear understanding of their role and upcoming projects.  

Whilst you probably already have a good idea about their general responsibilities, they will be able to give you a better picture of what their day-to-day role entails, what challenges they are facing, and what will need to be covered whilst they are on leave.  

By involving them in the process, you will be able to use their knowledge to get the best outcome.

They will also feel supported and let them know that they are a vital part of the process.  

Maternity Leave cover – Fill the gap 

Admittedly, for some employers, it can seem tempting to try and cope without hiring cover.

Unfortunately, the only way to do this is by delegating out their responsibilities to the wider team, and this can be detrimental for team morale.  

 New statistics from the Equality and Human Rights Commission revealed that half (51%) of employers agree that there is sometimes resentment amongst employees towards women who are pregnant or on maternity leave.  

By delegating additional responsibilities on to other team members, you could be adding stress, and negatively affecting their performance. 

In our opinion, filling the gap with maternity cover is almost always the best option.

pregnant woman working at desk before maternity

Again, the key here is to work with whoever is going on maternity leave.

Include them in the selection and onboarding process.

By doing so, you’ll be able to find a replacement that they believe in, fostering engagement at both ends of the camp. 

Finding the right maternity cover can be tricky, particularly for a Senior role and recruiting an experienced employee is very important.

It is often best to work with a Recruiter that specialises in interim placements.

Capability Jane is a perfect example as we specialise in interims, particularly maternity cover placements.

You can see which industries we recruit and have expertise in

Our candidates on average have 10 to 15 years experience and many have completed maternity contracts and maternity cover and are actively looking for a maternity cover role.  

Aim for a smooth handover 

To minimise stress and to ensure the replacement hire can step into their shoes comfortably, it’s essential that you factor in some time for a smooth handover.  

Ideally, your new hire should have ample time to shadow the person they’re going to replace.

This will give them time to learn about the role, understand the challenges they are going to face, and prepare for any upcoming projects.  

Depending on the complexity of the role and the scope of upcoming projects, this handover period could be as little as a week and as much as a month.

It’s often best to discuss with the outgoing party, to see what sort of time is needed.  

Keep in touch – KIT days 

Before your employee goes on maternity leave, it’s important to discuss how you’re going to keep in touch

Keeping the communication lines open is a good idea if you want them to feel engaged and happy to come back to work after maternity leave.

However, it’s best to let them lead on how they would like to be contacted and when.

Some employees may want regular contact, others may prefer a light touch approach.  

A particularly good option is to use paid Keeping In Touch (KIT) days.

During maternity leave, your employee can be paid to work up to 10 days without it affecting their Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).

KIT days can be a great way to keep your employee in the loop and for some, can be a much-needed way of earning extra income.

The important thing to remember here is that KIT days are not compulsory.  

Remember, the whole point of keeping in touch is to keep your employee engaged and supported, so they are willing and ready to come back when their maternity leave ends.

Piling on the pressure to do KIT days can have the opposite effect, so it’s wise to let them be in control and request them.

Just make sure they know that KIT days are an option if they want them.  

Phased returns and flexible working 

Coming back to work after maternity leave can be daunting.

Juggling parental responsibilities, tiredness and work responsibilities can be really difficult.

To help pre-empt any problems, you may want to discuss flexible working options such as working from home, flexible hours or job shares.  

Remember, employees with 26 weeks of service now have the right to make a request to work flexibly and employers must deal with requests in a reasonable manner.

In our experience, having an open and honest discussion about what will work best for both parties is key. 

Capability Jane has extensive experience of filling maternity cover roles for employers. Many of our candidates are actively looking for maternity cover or interim contracts and we have a wealth of experience providing talent for maternity leave contractsGet in touch with our friendly team to see how we can help today.