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Supporting a member of staff on maternity leave

Guidance for managers on how to support a member of staff who is expecting a baby.

This guidance should be read in conjunction with the maternity leave policy.


Maternity leave is available for eligible employees to take up to 52 weeks leave in connection to a birth. The earliest that leave can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth (unless the baby is born earlier). Employees must take at least two weeks maternity leave after the birth, but can choose to return to work before the full 52 weeks leave should they wish to do so.

You may wish to familiarise yourself with the maternity policy and the guidance for the pregnant employee to understand the rights and entitlements of the pregnant employee and what you need to do as their manager. Your HR Advisor will be happy to discuss what you need to consider and answer any queries you may have.

Before the employee’s maternity leave begins

When a member of staff confirms they are pregnant

When a member of staff notifies you of their pregnancy, it's important you meet with them as soon as is practical, so you can congratulate them on their exciting news and discuss with them how to communicate their pregnancy more widely.

As soon as possible after you have been notified of the pregnancy, you should carry out a risk assessment of their working environment and a workstation assessment to protect them from avoidable risk. Please be aware that you should update risk assessments as the employee's pregnancy develops.

If an assessment of their normal work activities indicates they are unable to carry out their usual duties due to possible risk to their baby, adjustments will need to be made to remove any hazard during the period of pregnancy. Where this is not possible, the pregnant employee will be suspended from work on full pay on medical grounds until the risks to their and the baby’s health have passed or suitable alternative work becomes available. Please contact your HR Advisor if this is likely to be the case. These provisions do not apply if a doctor has signed them off sick, but only where they are able to come to work but unable to carry out their particular work activities.

You should also discuss and agree workload (and allocation), rest breaks and any other work related issues affected by the pregnancy.

Absence before maternity leave starts

Antenatal care

The pregnant employee is entitled to reasonable paid time of work to attend antenatal appointments as recommended by their doctor or midwife. Time off will be at full pay and they won’t need to make up the hours. The member of staff should give you as much notice as possible and you can request to see evidence of their appointments.

A husband, civil partner or partner also has the right to unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments.

Falling ill

If the member of staff becomes ill with a pregnancy related illness after the beginning of the 4th week before the expected birth date, their maternity leave will start automatically on the date after their first day of absence. They will not qualify for sick pay whilst on maternity leave. Please notify your HR Advisor if this is the case, so that revised maternity dates can be confirmed.

Confirming maternity dates

You should agree with your member of staff when they wish to start and end their maternity leave and sign their maternity leave application form. It is advisable to take a copy of this form for your records and ensure that your HR Advisor has received a copy. Your HR Advisor will write to the employee to confirm maternity dates and will liaise with payroll, who will advise the employee of their maternity pay arrangements.

Considering maternity cover

If the role needs to be covered during the maternity leave period, you'll need to do the following:

  1. Consider whether there are alternative means of covering the role or is like-for-like cover required.

  2. Confirm the duration of the cover required.

  3. Consider how the cover will be funded using the maternity leave calculator to identify costs.

  4. Consider whether the maternity role cover can be carried out as a secondment or as development opportunity.

  5. Where a replacement is required, you will need to read the recruitment and selection guidance and raise a Staff Request Form.

  6. Academic staff who are responsible for the supervision of PhD students should ensure appropriate alternative arrangements are made and that the Doctoral College is informed of the change.

Other things to consider

Annual Leave

The pregnant employee will continue to accrue annual leave, bank/statutory holidays and discretionary days during their maternity leave in accordance with their leave entitlement within their contract of employment. You can calculate their entitlement to annual leave by using the holiday calculator.

You should discuss with your member of staff how they are planning to take their annual leave around their maternity leave and agree this with them. Annual leave can be taken at any time (outside of the maternity leave period), including directly prior to or following their maternity leave period.

If the employee’s maternity leave falls over two holiday leave year periods, 36.5 days are automatically carried forward into the next leave year. As their manager, you will need to make an adjustment on iTrent to your employee’s annual leave, including all statutory and bank holidays and discretionary days that they have been unable to take whilst on maternity leave at the beginning of the new leave year. The member of staff should then request any outstanding leave via iTrent.

Contact whilst on maternity leave

You should develop and agree a handover with the employee before they go onto maternity leave and agree how contact will be maintained throughout their maternity leave. You can also discuss using Keeping In Touch days (KIT) and whether these are appropriate. These are pro rata for part-time staff.

Whilst the member of staff is on maternity leave

Keeping in Touch Days (KIT days)

In agreement with the member of staff, they may undertake up to 10 days paid work during their maternity leave without bringing their maternity leave to an end. These are known as Keeping in Touch (KIT) Days days.

They may be used for any activity which would ordinarily be classed as work under their 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 taken at any stage during maternity leave, apart from the first two weeks after the birth of their baby

KIT days are optional and can only take place by agreement between both you and your employee. The member of staff should not be penalised for refusing to take up a KIT day. Similarly, you do not have to agree to it.

Flexible Working

If the employee is considering changing their working pattern or hours of work on return from their maternity leave, they can make a request via the Flexible Working Policy. Please refer to the manager's guidance for advice on what to consider.

Contact whilst on maternity leave

It's important that you keep your member of staff up to date with any developments at work. You should discuss arrangements for reasonable contact during their maternity leave with them.

When a member of staff is due to return from maternity leave

Confirming their return date

Prior to the expected return date you should confirm arrangements with the employee, including how any annual leave may be used. The expectation is that 52 weeks leave are taken, unless an earlier return date is indicated.

Returning earlier than expected

If the member of staff decides to return to work earlier than had initially been agreed, they will need to give you and your HR Advisor at least eight weeks’ notice in writing of the new return date. By not doing so, the University could decide to postpone their return for up to eight weeks or until their maternity leave entitlement comes to an end. If appropriate, you will need to consult with the member of staff who is covering the maternity leave and inform them of the early return of the post holder. Please contact your HR Advisor for further guidance if this is the case.

Supporting their return to work

Supporting an employee who is returning from maternity leave is a key activity for you as the line manager. You should communicate the return date of the member of staff to other team members and arrange an appropriate re-induction programme to support the retuning employee in their return to work. This may include:

  • agreeing new objectives – these may need to be modified to ease the member of staff back into the workplace
  • consider development needs – ensure that the returning employee is updated on new or amended systems and what has happened during their absence, and introduce them to any new members of staff
  • arrange regular review meetings – these can be used to discuss how their return to work is progressing and managing any issues that arise
  • consider temporary flexible working arrangements if appropriate

If your member of staff decides not to return to work

They should give you written notice as per their contract of employment. You should ensure that they follow the University Leaver guidance.

Further information:

Please contact your HR Advisor if further advice is needed.

Associated policies include:

Flexible working & Leave

Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave

Dependents Leave

Paternity Leave

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Date of last review: November 2018


If you have any questions, please contact us.

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