This policy sets out the contractual and statutory maternity rights to which all pregnant employees are entitled, both before and after the birth of their child.
It applies to all female employees, regardless of their length of service or whether employed on a full-time or part-time basis and to staff within all grades, except that it does not apply to casual workers, self employed people, consultants, staff contracted by other companies or on secondment to the University who are covered by their own employer’s terms and conditions.
As a pregnant employee, you have certain rights under the law as follows:
- The right to paid time off work for antenatal care.
- The right not to be dismissed on account of pregnancy or maternity leave.
- The right to be suspended on full pay if your pregnancy makes you unable to carry out your normal job and alternative work is not available.
- The right to paid statutory maternity pay subject to at least 26 weeks’ continuous service by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC).
- The right to take maternity leave and return to work.
You are entitled to reasonable paid time off in order to attend antenatal appointments as recommended by a doctor or midwife. Evidence of appointments may be requested. It is advisable to give your manager as much notice as possible of your appointments. Such time off will be on full pay and you will not be required to make up the hours lost.
The University acknowledges the importance of protecting from avoidable risk pregnant and breastfeeding employees and their children. Your manager should carry out a risk assessment of your working environment. A checklist is available from the Safety, Health and Environment Management Unit or from your HR Adviser. If following an assessment of your normal work activities, you are unable to carry out your usual duties due to possible risk to you/your baby, adjustments will be made to remove any hazard during the period of pregnancy. Where this is not possible for operational or research reasons, the University will need to consider suitable alternative work for you. Should this not be possible you will be suspended from work on full pay on medical grounds until the risks to you/your baby’s health has passed or suitable alternative work becomes available. These provisions do not apply where your doctor has signed you off sick, but only where you are able to come to work but unable to carry out your particular work activities.
All pregnant employees, as defined above, regardless of length of service are entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave and then to return to work. In order to claim maternity leave and pay you must notify your HR Adviser, no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth:
- the fact that you are pregnant
- the expected week of childbirth*
- the date on which you would like to start your maternity leave
- whether or not it is your intention to return
* This is normally confirmed in the form of a MATB1 and provided by your GP or midwife around the 25th week of pregnancy. It is up to you to decide how much of the 52 weeks’ maternity leave you wish to take but the law requires that you take a minimum of two weeks’ leave from the date of the birth. You may start your maternity leave at any time from the 11th week before the expected date of birth. However, if your baby is born before the commencement of your maternity leave, the maternity leave will begin automatically on the day after the birth. If this happens you should contact your manager and HR Adviser as soon as reasonably practical. If you fall sick with a pregnancy-related illness after the beginning of the 4th week before the expected birth date, maternity leave will automatically start on the day after the first day of absence. You do not qualify for sick pay whilst on maternity leave. In the granting of maternity leave, the University policy makes no distinction between live births and stillbirths occurring at or after the 24th week of pregnancy.
Maternity pay is a separate entitlement and will depend on your length of service and on whether or not you intend to return to work following your maternity leave. Maternity pay is subject to the condition that no work is undertaken during the paid period of leave (up to 39 weeks) outside of ‘ keeping in touch days’ (see section 2.7) There are two types of maternity pay. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) which the University pays to you on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Occupational Maternity Pay (OMP) which you are entitled to if you have the required length of service with the University.
The University's Occupational Maternity Pay Scheme
To qualify for the Occupational Maternity Pay Scheme, which is inclusive of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), you need to have been continuously employed in the University for at least 52 weeks at the EWC. A further condition of this scheme is that you should return to work at the University, in a full or part time capacity, for at least three months following maternity leave.
If you have been in receipt of OMP and then decide not to return for the required period the University reserves the right to reclaim the whole or part of the non-statutory element of maternity pay. Your right to SMP remains unaffected, regardless of whether or not you return. If you are uncertain as to whether or not you intend to return to work you may wish to opt to hold over any pay in excess of your statutory entitlement and to receive this pay after you have returned to work for three months.
If you qualify for the OMP scheme you are entitled to 39 weeks pay as follows:
- 8 weeks full pay; followed by
- 18 weeks half pay plus SMP; followed by 13 weeks SMP; followed by 13 weeks unpaid leave
- The Statutory Maternity Pay Scheme
If you are not entitled to OMP you will qualify for SMP if you have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service by the end of the 15th week before the EWC (this is known as “the qualifying week”). In addition your average weekly earnings in the eight weeks up to and including the qualifying week must be at least equivalent of the lower earnings limit for Class1 National Insurance contributions. Statutory Maternity pay is paid for a total of 39 weeks as follows:
- 6 weeks Higher Rate SMP (90% of average weekly earnings); followed by
- 33 weeks Lower Rate SMP
SMP rates are fixed by law and increase every April and are subject to tax and National Insurance deductions. Full details of the current rates of SMP may be obtained from your HR Advisor or Payroll Supervisor.
If you have less than 26 weeks continuous service by the 15th week before your EWC or your average weekly earnings are below the level at which National Insurance is payable, you will not qualify for SMP but you may qualify for Maternity Allowance which is paid through Jobcentre Plus. Further information is available from their website.
The University offers a child care voucher scheme in partnership with Fideliti. This enables you to make savings on your tax and National Insurance contributions. If you are interested in paying for childcare through this scheme please either refer to the Fideliti website or contact the HR Manager (Reward) for further details.
By agreement with your manager and your Head of Department, you may undertake up to 10 days paid work during your maternity leave without bringing your maternity leave to an end. These are known as Keeping in Touch (KIT) days. They may be used for any activity which would ordinarily be classed as work under your contract of employment, including training, attending a conference, committee or a team meeting or any activity undertaken for the purposes of keeping in touch with the workplace. They can be undertaken at any stage during maternity leave apart from the first two weeks after the birth.
If you work during a period of full pay, no additional payment will be made but if you work during a period of half pay or SMP only, your pay will be ‘topped up’ so that you receive full pay for the hours worked. If you work for less than a full day, this will count as one KIT day for the purposes of the 10 maximum, although payment will only be made for actual hours worked. KIT days are optional and can only take place by agreement between both you and your manager. You cannot be penalised for refusing to take up a KIT day. Similarly, you do not have a right to work a KIT day if your manager does not agree to it. It should be noted that any work undertaken as a KIT day would not extend the statutory maternity period in any way. Please use the KIT form attached.
The University is entitled to make reasonable contact with you during your maternity leave and it is important that you are kept informed of any developments at work. It is also appropriate that you make reasonable contact with your department. You may wish to discuss any flexible working arrangements that would make your return to work easier.
During your full maternity leave the University will maintain all contractual rights except for pay, you will receive OMP and/or SMP instead, provided you meet the qualifying requirements.
You will continue to accrue annual leave for the entire period of maternity leave in accordance with your leave entitlement as set out in your contract. The existing general provision that you may carry forward up to five days annual leave from one leave year to another remains. You cannot automatically use accrued leave to extend your maternity leave without approval from your manager. If you wish to return on reduced hours you will need to discuss with your manager how your accrued leave can be most conveniently taken. For example, it may be appropriate to take that leave before the reduced hours come into effect at the end of your maternity leave.
Where you exercise your right to return to work, all periods of time that you take off work as maternity leave are subsequently counted as continuous service for the purposes of calculating any service-related statutory rights. Thus once you return to work, your length of service is calculated as if you had never been absent.
Pension rights and contributions shall be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the relevant University superannuation scheme, providing that these provisions do not conflict with any relevant statutory requirements that may at the time apply. For members of USS and LGPS your contributions will be maintained in full for any period you are in receipt of pay, whether contractual or SMP. Any unpaid leave is treated as suspended membership and will not count as pensionable service. You may elect, before your maternity leave commences, not to contribute during your maternity leave. On your return to work you will have the option to pay additional contributions to make up the difference so this can count as pensionable service. The University will also pay the appropriate normal employer contribution. For further details on pension please contact the Pensions Officer.
Where applicable you will be entitled to receive the normal annual increment on your pay scale in accordance with your contract of employment, to take effect from your normal incremental date.
If you choose to return to work at the end of your paid maternity leave, you have the right to return to the same post. If you take additional, unpaid maternity leave, you will normally return to the same post. However, if this is not feasible you are entitled to return to a post that is similar in terms of duties and skills and on terms and conditions no less favourable than those which applied before maternity leave. Should a redundancy situation arise which could affect your post, you will be consulted about the continuation of your employment, and if your post becomes redundant you will be offered a suitable alternative vacancy.
The earlier in your pregnancy you are able to let the University know what your intentions are, by either discussing them with your manager or with your HR Adviser, the better. The maternity regulations are rather complex and it is not possible to cover every eventuality. You are therefore encouraged to request a maternity meeting with your HR Adviser who can explain your particular entitlements. You may not wish to announce your pregnancy at this point and therefore the meeting will be held in confidence.
When you feel able you should notify the University that you are pregnant and the date on which you wish to start your maternity leave by completing the Application for Maternity Leave Form. This should be submitted to your HR Adviser no later than 15 weeks before your Expected Week of Childbirth, unless this is not reasonably practicable, in which case you should give as much notice as is reasonably practicable. Please keep a copy of your application form for your own records. As soon as you receive your MATB1 form which confirms your EWC please send this to your HR Adviser. No maternity payment can be made until this has been received. If you are not entitled to SMP Payroll will return the form to you, once recorded, with the SMP1 Exclusion Form so that you can apply to the Department of Works and Pensions for the Maternity Allowance. Your HR Adviser will acknowledge receipt of your application form and will write to you confirming the date on which your maternity leave will end and the actual date you will be expected to return to work. If after you have submitted your application form, you decide to change the start date of your maternity leave, you should notify your HR Adviser, in writing, giving at least 8 weeks notice of the new start date.
Once you know the week in which your baby is due (the EWC) you can work out whether or not you qualify for the University OMP Scheme (you will need to have been continuously employed by the University for at least 52 weeks by the EWC) or the SMP Scheme (you will need to have completed at least 26 weeks’ continuous service for the University by 15th week before the EWC) or Maternity Allowance.
You may choose to return to work at any time during maternity leave, except within two weeks of the birth. If you choose to return to work at the end of paid maternity leave, you have the right to return to the post to which you were employed. If you intend to return to work at the end of your full 52 weeks’ maternity leave entitlement you are not required to give notice of your return. Although there is no legal requirement for you to give advance notice of your intention to return at the end of your full maternity leave period, you are encouraged to keep your manager and Head of Department informed of your intentions so that appropriate cover and workloads can be planned. If you decide to return prior to the end of your full maternity period you should give your Manager and HR Adviser at least 8 weeks notice, in writing, of your intended date of return. If you fail to give the required notice, the University may postpone your return for up to 8 weeks or until your maternity leave entitlement has been exhausted.
If you do not wish to return to work at the end of your maternity leave, you should give the University written notice as per your contract and before the end of your the maternity period. If a resignation date is not specified your resignation will be effective from the end of your paid maternity leave period. If you have received OMP you should contact Payroll to make arrangements to pay this back. You are strongly encouraged to use your right to return to work. If you resign instead of taking maternity leave, you will forfeit your right to return to work at a later date. If at the end of your maternity leave you are unable to return to work due to illness you should submit a doctor’s certificate in the usual way and you will then transfer from maternity leave to sick leave. Normal conditions governing sickness absence will then apply.
If you are on a fixed term contract and your contract expires whilst you are on maternity leave, or prior to the completion of 3 months return to work, you should contact your Manager and HR Adviser in advance of the contract end date for guidance regarding the consultation process and to investigate any possibility of extension. The procedures for Ending Fixed Term contracts must still be followed. Where a fixed term contract ceases after the 15th week before the EWC or during paid maternity leave, OMP will cease with effect from the contract end date. The University will continue to pay SMP, if eligible through the University Payroll for the remainder of the provision.
If your post is funded from a grant you should contact your supervisor or grant holder and HR Adviser at the earliest opportunity to discuss payment of your salary during maternity leave. Some sponsors have a policy to extend a grant to cover maternity leave.
If you are thinking of varying your present pattern of work you should discuss it with your Manager at the earliest opportunity or at least 8 weeks before your return date. If you have 26 weeks service at the date of application and have children under 6 years of age you are entitled to apply to work flexibly to care for a child. Whilst there is no automatic right to return to work on flexible hours, the University will give fair and thorough consideration to all requests to accommodate individuals wishing to vary their work pattern. Please refer to the Parents and Carers Flexible Working policy for more details.
If you have any queries regarding your rights or obligations under this maternity policy, you should raise them in the first instance with the HR Adviser who supports your department.