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What is a Maternity Policy?
This document is GDPR compliant.
When should I use a Maternity Policy?
- the statutory maternity leave regime
- who is entitled to UK maternity leave
- who is entitled to UK maternity pay
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This Maternity Policy template covers:
the entitlement to leave for antenatal appointments
what maternity leave is
who is eligible for maternity leave
when maternity leave can be taken
statutory maternity pay
employer's enhanced maternity pay
rights during maternity leave
returning to work after leave
Introducing a Maternity Policy helps managers and employees understand the rights and obligations attached to maternity leave. It ensures employees are aware of their rights when they get pregnant and it provides assistance on their return to work. Having a Maternity Policy encourages equality and fairness within the workplace. It also helps retain employees, demonstrates the employer's commitment to diversity and inclusion, and fosters a supportive and inclusive workplace culture.
For more information about different types of family leave, read Family leave and rights.
Pregnant employees have certain rights relating to antenatal care (ie care received before a child is born). An antenatal appointment is any appointment an employee has which relates to their pregnancy and their child. Throughout a pregnancy, employees will have regular antenatal appointments which may include health checks, ultrasounds, and screening tests. However, antenatal appointments don’t just mean medical appointments but can also include antenatal or parenting classes that have been recommended by a doctor or midwife.
Pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off work to attend such antenatal appointments. Employers must pay this at the employee’s normal rate of pay.
The earliest date maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. In some situations, maternity leave can start earlier than planned. In particular, it can start:
the day after the child's birth if the child is born prematurely
immediately, if the employee is sick for a pregnancy-related reason during the 4 weeks before the expected week of childbirth
For more information, read Maternity leave.
During maternity leave, an employee's employment contract continues except for pay entitlement. All other benefits must continue as normal. This means employees on maternity leave are entitled to pay rises, benefits of any kind, and accrued holiday as they usually would be.
If an employee who is on maternity leave receives a pay raise, their statutory maternity pay (SMP) must be retrospectively adjusted. This means that their SMP must be calculated as if the pay raise had been in place when their SMP was first calculated.
Employers must also take care to adjust any relevant performance and bonus targets to avoid discriminating against and penalising employees on maternity leave. A good approach is to pro-rate these targets. Any bonuses that are not performance-based (eg loyalty bonuses) should not be reduced. For more information, read Bonuses at work.
Pension contributions also need to be made during paid maternity leave.
For more information, read Maternity leave.
When maternity leave starts, employees are entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks. SMP amounts to:
90% of an employee’s normal pay during the first 6 weeks, and
90% of their average weekly salary or £172.48 a week (whichever is lower) for a further 33 weeks
To qualify for SMP, employees must:
earn (on average) at least £123 a week (as of April 2023)
give their employer at least 28 days’ notice for SMP to start
prove that they are pregnant, and
have at least 26 weeks of continuous employment on the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth
For more information, read Maternity leave.
Enhanced maternity pay (also known as ‘contractual maternity pay’) is the employer’s own maternity pay scheme which goes above and beyond the statutory requirements. For example, employers may pay enhanced maternity pay at 100% of employees’ usual wages for the first 26 weeks of maternity pay, followed by 13 weeks of SMP.
Enhanced maternity pay does not need to be paid for the whole of an employee’s maternity leave.
Employees should return to work after the maternity leave period ends. Employers must indicate the date of return in writing within 28 days from the date the employee notified the employer of their maternity leave.
While on maternity leave, employees can agree on up to 10 keeping in touch (KIT) days with their employer. KIT days allow the employee to work or attend training while on maternity leave. This is designed to help employees stay in touch with work while they’re on maternity leave.
During any KIT days, employees must be paid their normal pay (ie what they’re normally paid when working). An employee’s right to mat leave and pay is not affected by taking any KIT days.
KIT days are optional. This means that both the employer and employee have to agree to them.
Generally, when an employee wants to work KIT days, they should speak to their employer and discuss:
how many KIT days they want to work
what type of work they'll do on the days
how much they’ll be paid (this should be their usual salary and cannot be below the national minimum wage)
For more information, see the Government’s website.
An employee may not wish to return to work after the end of their maternity leave. Your Maternity Policy should mention that, in such cases, employees should notify the employer that they wish to request parental leave. It is a good idea for employers to adopt a Parental leave policy so that employees are aware of, and understand, their rights with regard to parental leave.
For more information, read Parental leave.
Making a Maternity Policy online is simple. Just answer a few questions and Rocket Lawyer will build your document for you. When you have all of the details prepared in advance, making your document is a quick and easy process.
To make your Maternity Policy you will need the following information:
What is the employer's name?
What is the job title of the person to whom the employees should address queries and notifications?
Will the employer provide enhanced pay during maternity leave (or part of it) and/or pay a bonus to employees returning to work after maternity leave?
If so, does an employee need to have a minimum period of service before they are entitled to enhanced maternity pay and/or a bonus? How many months of service must the employee have to be entitled to this?
Enhanced maternity pay
Will an employee receive enhanced maternity pay during their entire maternity leave?
If not, what is the period of enhanced maternity pay?
What percentage of an employee's base salary is the enhanced maternity pay entitlement?
Will the employer calculate the bonus to be paid to an employee returning to work after maternity leave:
As a percentage of the employee's base salary? If so, what percentage of the employee's base salary is the bonus entitlement?
As a fixed amount? If so, how much is the employee bonus?
Does the employee need to remain employed for a minimum period of time after returning from maternity leave to be entitled to a bonus?
If so, how long after returning from maternity leave does the employee need to remain employed to be entitled to a bonus?
Are the employer’s provisions for sickness leave set out in the:
What is the name of the document containing the employer's Parental leave policy?
What is the notice period for requesting parental leave if an employee does not wish to return after the end of their maternity leave?
Does the employer have a Shared parental leave policy?
Does the employer have a Paternity policy?
Can employees find out about adoption leave:
In the employer's Adoption leave policy? If so, what is the name of the employer's adoption leave policy?
From an employee's contact person?
Can employees find out about the procedures for flexible working requests:
In the employer's Flexible working policy? If so, what is the name of the employer's flexible working policy?
From an employee's contact person?
Maternity Policies are used to clearly outline employees’ maternity leave and pay entitlements. As a result, this Maternity Policy template covers:
Statement of policy and purpose of Policy
This section sets out why the employer has adopted the Maternity Policy and explains that it exists to ensure that employees and managers are clear about entitlements to maternity leave, the process that should be followed for arranging leave, and the terms that apply during and after maternity leave. It also highlights that the Maternity Policy does not form part of anyone’s employment contract and can, therefore, be changed at the employer’s discretion.
This section explains what certain defined terms, which are used throughout the Policy, mean. Specifically, it clarifies that ‘Expected Week of Childbirth’ means the week, starting on a Sunday, in which the employee’s doctor or midwife expects them to give birth. ‘Qualifying Week’ means the fifteenth week before the Expected Week of Childbirth.
What is maternity leave and who is eligible to take it?
This section provides information on what maternity leave is (including its duration). It also sets out who is entitled to take maternity leave and highlights the right to take shared parental leave.
Giving notice of your pregnancy
This section sets out how employees should give notice of their pregnancy. It also encourages pregnant employees to inform their employer as soon as possible, so that the employer can make all necessary arrangements.
This section covers the right to attend antenatal appointments and sets out that time taken off for antenatal appointments will be paid at an employee’s normal rate.
Health and safety during your pregnancy
This section covers the employer’s duty to ensure the health and safety of pregnant employees in the workplace. Specifically, it addresses the employer’s assessment of workplace risks specific to pregnant women and to those who have recently become mothers and/or who are breastfeeding. It also sets out that employees will be informed of any specific risks and how the employee will be protected from them.
This section addresses any sickness absences the employee may experience. It clarifies that any pregnancy-related sickness absences will be handled in the same way as any other sickness absences. Further, it sets out when sickness absences will automatically trigger the start of maternity leave.
Starting maternity leave
This section sets out how maternity leave is started. This includes details on when and how an employee should notify their employer of their pregnancy and their intended maternity leave start date. It also explains when maternity leave can start and when it must be taken.
This section details the right to maternity pay, covering statutory maternity pay and, if relevant, enhanced maternity pay. It sets out at what rates maternity pay will be paid and when it will stop being paid.
During maternity leave
This section sets out how an employee will be treated during maternity leave. This includes employment contracts continuing as normal (apart from payment provisions), keeping in touch days, and when the employer may contact employees. It also sets out a contact person to whom any questions about maternity leave and/or pay should be addressed.
Expected return date
This section sets out details relating to an employee’s expected return date after maternity leave. This includes when the expected return date will be confirmed, how the expected return date can be changed and how parental leave can be requested.
When you return to work
This section sets out details relating to an employee’s returning to work after maternity leave. It clarifies that employees are generally entitled to return to work in the same job and on the same terms as if they had not been absent. It also highlights when this is not the case - namely when an employee has taken more than 6 months of leave or any period of parental leave in conjunction with their maternity leave. If this is the case, this section clarifies that the employer may offer the employee another suitable role on terms and conditions that are not less favourable than those that applied before their leave.
This section also addresses how employees can request changes to their working patterns when they return to work. It clarifies that any such Flexible working requests should be made as soon as possible.
Rights to leave on adoption
This section explains that the employer will process employee personal data when managing employees' rights to maternity leave. It clarifies that this will be done in accordance with the employer’s Data protection policy and that any inappropriate access or disclosure of such data constitutes a data breach, which should be reported immediately and which may result in disciplinary action under the employer’s Disciplinary procedure.
If you want your Maternity Policy to include further or more detailed provisions, you can edit your document. However, if you do this, you may want a lawyer to review or change the Maternity Policy for you, to make sure it complies with all relevant laws and meets your specific needs. Ask a lawyer for assistance.
Decide whether you want to offer enhanced maternity pay
While you don’t have to offer enhanced maternity pay, it is a good way to show your workforce that they are valued and it helps to retain talent. Not only does offering enhanced maternity pay make a business seem more appealing to prospective employees, it also improves staff retention (reducing employee turnover and recruitment costs) and increases employee satisfaction. For more information, see the FAQ ‘What is enhanced maternity pay?’.
Understand when maternity leave is compulsory
While statutory maternity leave can be up to 12 months, there are certain circumstances in which maternity leave must be taken. Maternity leave is compulsory in the first 2 weeks after a baby is born. This means that employees are not allowed to work during the 2 weeks immediately after they’ve given birth. If an employee works in a factory, this compulsory maternity leave is extended to 4 weeks. For more information, read Maternity leave.
Consider what other policies you should adopt
This Maternity Policy makes reference to several other policies which you should consider making and implementing. These include:
a Data protection policy - setting out how the employer processes (eg handles and stores) personal data (eg employees’ names, addresses and medical information). This document is essential for employers to demonstrate their compliance with data protection obligations
For more information on these policies (and any other policies you may wish to adopt), read HR policies and procedures. For more information on family-friendly rights and policies, read Family leave and rights.
Understand what situations may affect maternity pay
Typically, employees are entitled to receive statutory maternity pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks. However, certain situations may affect SMP entitlements. Examples include:
if an employee becomes sick while on maternity leave
if an employee has a stillbirth
if an employee has a miscarriage
if a child is born prematurely or earlier than expected
pregnancy-related absences close to a child’s due date
For more information on the effects of these situations, read Circumstances that can affect maternity pay.
Be aware of the special rules
Generally, after maternity leave, employees are entitled to return to their roles on the same terms as before maternity leave. However, there may be circumstances in which an employee needs to be made redundant while on maternity leave. It is crucial that any such redundancies are treated fairly and that the employee is not treated less favourably because of their pregnancy or being on maternity leave. For more information, read Redundancy and pregnancy or maternity leave and Ask a lawyer if you’re considering making an employee who is pregnant or on maternity leave redundant.
Understand when to seek advice from a lawyer
Ask a lawyer if:
this document doesn’t meet your specific needs
you want to change an existing policy that is contractually binding
allegations of discrimination are made in connection with maternity leave
Regulation (EU) 2016/679, known as the ‘UK General Data Protection Regulation’, ‘UK GDPR’ or simply ‘GDPR’