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Fair means fair – the rules on maternity leave and pay

We all try to be fair, yet do others always try to be fair to us?

Let us imagine we have just hired a new member of your domestic staff, be it carer, housekeeper or nanny.  Six weeks in, she comes and tells you she is pregnant and that she expects, in line with legislation, to take maternity leave and and receive maternity pay.

So, you sit down, pick up your dropped jaw and figure out exactly how to react.  Is she entitled to maternity leave and pay?  If so, how long can she take off and how much will that cost you, both in maternity pay and the cost of (a) finding someone to cover maternity leave and (b) paying their wages?

To say it would be a bolt out of the blue is probably an understatement!

But what precisely is your new employee entitled to?

The first thing to understand is that maternity leave and maternity pay are NOT joined at the hip; they are two different issues with two different sets of entitlements.

Let’s take maternity leave first.

The magic figure is 52 weeks.  All pregnant women employees are entitled to this regardless of how long they have been working for you.  They do not have to take it all but there is a minimum of two weeks for someone working, for example, in a domestic environment.   Within an industrial environment, a factory, the minimum is four weeks. Your new employee will be within the minimum two week regime.

If she decides to take less than 52 weeks, she has to inform you of this at the outset and if she changes her mind, give 8 weeks’ notice of her early return to work.  This allows you to make your own arrangements with any cover staff.

Now to the issue of pay.

If your employee was pregnant before she started work with you she is NOT entitled to maternity pay.  The reason behind this is that she needs 26 weeks’ service, 15 weeks before the date she is due to have the baby.  This applies because she did not work for you before.  If you were a company and had bought out another company for which she had worked and she is now working for you, the situation would be different.  But let’s not complicate the issue .

She may however be entitled to some maternity allowance from the government and you could point her in that direction.

Bear in mind the following.  If continuing to work  for you while pregnant breaches health and safety legislation, then you must find her other work, or suspend her on full pay.

Other than that, you have NO obligation to pay her maternity pay.  We have to admit,  sometimes life can get REALLY complicated.

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