A Comprehensive Look at Some of Our Most-Asked Maternity Leave Questions
1. ‘I have an employee about to go on maternity leave for a year. Am I still allowed to contact her during her leave?’
You’re allowed to make reasonable contact with your employee during her maternity leave, regarding topics including any changes or developments at work, social events, colleagues who are leaving, new staff or arrangements for their return to work. If possible, define what about and how frequently you plan to speak, so there is no confusion as her maternity leave begins.
2. ‘Both my husband and I work full-time, and we want to share the parental leave. How does that work?’
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Pay helps eligible parents to combine work with family life. According to the government’s SPL Guide, ‘Parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay and choose to take the leave and pay in a more flexible way (each parent can take up to 3 blocks of leave, more if their employer allows, interspersed with periods of work).’
This means that you can be off work together for up to 6 months or alternatively stagger your leave and pay so that one of you is always at home with your baby in the first year.
3. ‘What earnings are used in the calculation of Statutory Maternity Pay, and how much will I actually be paid?’
Direct from the government’s Statutory Maternity Pay website: ‘Your average weekly earnings for SMP will be based on all your gross earnings that are subject to National Insurance contributions. Therefore, your earnings can include holiday pay, overtime, commission, bonuses arrears of pay or other sums paid during the SMP calculation period on which National Insurance contributions are paid. Allowances, such as accommodation allowances, that are included in your gross earnings and are subject to tax and Class 1 National Insurance contributions also count as earnings.’
When you break it down mathematically, if you are paid weekly, the SMP calculation period includes your average weekly earnings in the last pay day before the end of your Qualifying Week and the previous seven pay days. If you are paid monthly, the SMP calculation period is usually your average weekly earnings in the last two monthly pay days received before the end of your Qualifying Week.
SMP for eligible employees can be paid for up to 39 weeks, usually as follows:
- The first 6 weeks: 90% of their average weekly earnings (AWE) before tax
- The remaining 33 weeks: £145.18 or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower)
Keep in mind that on top of that, tax and National Insurance still need to be deducted.
4. ‘When do you have to claim maternity leave by, and when’s the earliest it can start?’
For you to claim maternity leave, you should notify your employer no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth providing the following details:
- The fact that you are pregnant
- The expected week of childbirth
- The date when you intend to start taking leave
Your employer can insist on the date when you intend to start taking leave to be submitted to your employer in writing to ensure that you both have the correct date when the leave is to commence.
If you don’t give your employer the required notification for the start of the maternity leave then you may lose your right to start your maternity leave on your chosen date, although this will not affect your ability to take maternity leave.
According to the Work and Families Act, maternity leave can start no earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth.
5. ‘What are Keep in Touch days?’
During the maternity leave period, employees can take 10 Keep in Touch (KIT) days, where they return to work just to learn what has been going on in their absence. This can be used for attending meetings, training, conferences or just catching up, but even part of a day counts as a whole one.
They’re truly just a way of working up to ten days during maternity or adoption leave without your leave or pay coming to an end. Similarly, you’re allowed to work up to 20 shared-parental-in-touch (SPLIT) days without bringing shared parental leave or pay to an end.