The announcements have been made, the congratulations have been given and the gasps of delight have subsided.  Now, it’s time to sit back and count the cost of your employee imminently disappearing on maternity leave.

According to the website, approximately 440,000 of the female workforce are pregnant in any given year in the UK, so as an employer you are not alone.  Whilst many companies have a well-structured maternity plan in place, some smaller businesses may not.  Here are a few facts worth considering:

  • By law, your employee is entitled to take 52 weeks maternity leave, no questions asked* – 26 weeks are considered Statutory Maternity Leave (SML), and the other half are considered Additional Maternity Leave (AML).
  • All women in the UK must have at least 2 weeks statutory maternity leave.
  • Statutory Maternity Pay is payable for 39 weeks.
  • SMP is calculated as follows:  first 6 weeks – up to 90 per cent of average weekly earnings (AWE).  Remaining 33 weeks – £136.78 or 90% of AWE (whichever is the lowest).
  • You (the Employer) are reimbursed 92%, by the Government for Statutory Maternity Pay – or up to 103% if your business qualifies for Small Employers’ Relief (if you paid less than £45,000 in Class 1 National Insurance in the last complete tax year).
  • The employee’s role must be kept open for anything up to 26 weeks, and if the role is no longer tenable, then a job of the same scale, responsibility and pay offered thereafter (employees have the same contractual rights during AML).
  • The employee is entitled to paid time off to attend ante-natal classes (which means she doesn’t take it out of her holiday allowance, or classify it as sick leave).
*It’s against the law to ask either directly or indirectly when your employee is intending to return to work whilst on their 52-week maternity leave.

If some of this has you coming out in a cold sweat, then take heart that employers have the right to request a minimum of 15 weeks’ notice before the date of expected childbirth, allowing you time to plan for the maternity leave in a way that best suits the company.

This may include putting measures in place for another member of staff to take on part of the expectant mother’s role, or bringing in a new employee to cover in the interim.  Whilst this may sound daunting, it can be a way to introduce fresh ideas and enthusiasm into an existing team, by switching up the routine and getting people to think ‘outside of the box’.  In some instances, it might benefit the company to train a new recruit in the key processes and fundamentals of how a department works, and then segue them into another role, once your employee returns from having had her baby.

Recruiting interim cover need not be a huge expense.  Designated PA can help you bridge the gap by providing flexible remote assistance, designed to integrate seamlessly with your business.  We provide high calibre PAs and EAs that bring with them a wealth of experience.  We can provide support by covering off administrative tasks, whilst your team concentrate on strategic activity.  Or, you can give us projects that are up against a deadline, so that you and your staff can focus on tactical delivery.

With women making up nearly half of the workforce[1] in the UK and more than 80% becoming mothers during their working life, it is inevitable that as an employer you will need to embrace the challenges that maternity leave can throw up.  Taking a flexible approach, in terms of working arrangements will enable you to cultivate strong working relationships within your organisation, thereby retaining talented staff that have the skills and expertise, not to mention the good fit with company culture that you want to propagate.  By taking positive steps now to ensure that your female employees are before during and after their maternity leave, you will foster stronger loyalty and better team relationships, as a result.

And if you’re worried that your employee won’t come back, then consider that although two thirds of employers don’t expect new mothers to return to work[2], two thirds actually do[3]!