How Not to Handle Maternity Leave by Belinda Newton

Here is an excellent example of how not to make an enquiry into an employee on maternity leave as to whether they are considering coming back to work. Unfortunately in a recent employment tribunal, one employer who clearly did not understand what rights new mothers are entitled to has had to pay out £18,000 on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
Emailing one of your employees 2 days after they have given birth demanding a response is unlikely to do you any favours. The new mother in this case was bombarded with emails and was branded ‘unsupportive’ by her boss after ceasing to reply to his emails. Mrs Stone was then deemed ‘unprofessional’ by her employer who also went ‘ballistic’ about her taking her full maternity leave, to which she was fully entitled.
All pregnant employees are entitled to 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave followed by 26 weeks additional leave. By law they must take 2 weeks off (4 weeks if it’s a factory environment) after the birth, so pestering them so soon was really out of order. You can however  stay in touch and using the permitted ten paid keeping in touch days is a really positive way of doing this.
Always assume that the full period of leave will be taken and that they will be returning to their role. If they want to negotiate flexible
working they will write to you requesting this or if they are not returning they must give their contractual notice.

There is obviously a common sense approach to this but we would always recommend taking advice.

Belinda Newton

belinda.newton@hrdept.co.uk