Employees are able to be absent from work for the duration of a period of Ordinary Maternity Leave of 26 weeks and a further period of Additional Maternity Leave period of 26 weeks. These two periods combined comprise the Statutory Maternity Leave entitlement of 52 weeks in total.
During Statutory Maternity Leave, employees who satisfy the qualifying requirements are entitled to receive an amount of Statutory Maternity Pay, the level of which is adjusted each year by the Government. Currently, Statutory Maternity Pay is payable for up to 39 weeks. The first six weeks are payable at 90% of average gross weekly earnings, with the remaining 33 weeks being paid at the lesser of 90% of the average gross weekly earning or the standard SMP rate in force.
Employees are able to choose the date on which their Ordinary Maternity Leave period starts, provided the start date falls within 11 weeks of the expected week of childbirth. There are however obligations upon an employee to notify the employer in advance about her pregnancy and related matters in order to qualify for the leave.
Statutory Maternity Leave is applicable to employees regardless of length of service, level of pay or hours worked.
Eligible parents of children born or matched for adoption are entitled to share the care of their child during the first year after their birth or adoption. Parents have the option of choosing to end their maternity leave and share the remaining leave as flexible parental leave. Mothers still need take the initial two or four weeks following the birth of the child but can then split the remaining weeks of Shared Parental Leave any way they want. SMP is still paid for 39 weeks.
'Keeping in Touch' Days are also an option for employees during their maternity leave period. The provisions in relation to Keeping in Touch Days are contained in the Maternity and Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2006.
An employee on Maternity or Adoption Leave can agree with her employer to work for up to ten days during the Statutory Maternity Leave period of up to 52 weeks.
Keeping in touch days still apply to those parents that choose to take shared parental leave. Each parent is entitled to 20 Shared Parental Leave in touch days (SPLit). The same rules still apply as for KIT days.
The employee cannot however be forced to work. Any pressure placed on an employee to work would amount to a detriment, entitling the employee could bring a claim under the Employment Rights Act 1996. Equally, the employer does not have to offer 'Keeping in Touch' days to the employee.
The employee would be entitled to be paid at their normal rate of pay during these days and would not lose their other maternity benefits. Any period of work would amount to a day’s work for the purposes of a ‘Keeping in Touch’ day but the primary purpose of these days is for the training and updating of employees.
A return to do some work on one of these days, does not bring the Maternity Leave to an end nor can the Maternity Leave period be extended by the number of days used.