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Maternity leave: top tips for employers

02 Dec 2016 | Paul Beevers


Through the legal helpline offered to BVA members, we’re often asked by employers about what needs to be considered when employees go on, and return from, maternity leave.

Through the legal helpline offered to BVA members, we’re often asked by employers about what needs to be considered when employees go on, and return from, maternity leave.

In this post I’ve outlined some key points to consider, and although it is aimed at employers, employees going on maternity leave may also find it useful to be aware of these aspects. More detailed information on this topic can be found in the BVA maternity and paternity guide.

Prior to maternity leave

Pregnant womanPaperwork

Both parties must receive/issue and understand all the necessary paperwork, including MATB1, notification of dates on which maternity leave starts and ends, and confirmation of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)/contractual maternity pay.

Workload and handover

Make sure you discuss workload and the handover process. If maternity cover has been recruited, is there going to be an overlap between the employees for handover purposes? If it has been decided no specific maternity cover is required, how is the work that needs to be covered being split up? Has the employee met with any members of staff who will be taking on work from her? Does the employee need to make handover notes? Has her line manager been updated on the status of her workload and all necessary arrangements made?

Annual leave (current holiday year)

Establish whether the employee has any annual leave left for the current holiday year. If she does, does she wish to take it prior to commencing maternity leave? If she does not wish to take all her annual leave before starting Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) how will the employee’s entitlement be dealt with?

Annual leave (accrual during maternity leave)

It is usually advisable to deal with holiday accrued prior to maternity leave and during maternity leave separately so as to avoid any confusion if the employee changes the amount of maternity leave she takes. Establish what the employee wishes to do concerning holiday which will accrue in the holiday year that commences prior to her return from maternity leave. Does she wish to take this holiday before returning to work from maternity leave, so as to extend her period of leave?

Status of employment contract and benefits

Outline the status of the employee’s contract of employment during maternity leave, and her rights and obligations towards the employer. This will include explaining how any bonuses or pay rises which become due during the maternity leave period will be calculated, as well as explaining arrangements for payment of pension contributions. If the employee makes her own pension contributions she should be reminded that she may wish to top these up in order to maintain the same level of contributions when her pay reduces and/or expires. Outline the status of any other contractual entitlements such as use of a company car, gym membership and childcare vouchers.

Keeping in contact

Establish the employee’s preferred method of contact during maternity leave (such as via post or personal email address) and whether she wishes to receive any regular external or internal publications while she is away. For example, copies of industry publications, internal company vacancy lists, company newsletters or bulletins, invitations to work social events.

Keeping-in-touch (KIT) days

Explain any policy that the employer may have regarding the use of KIT days and in particular whether (and, if so, how much) is paid for them. Discuss any specific opportunities which may be coming up and/or which may be of use or interest to the employee. For example, team or company meetings or away days, conferences, training sessions, or specific client work.

Shared parental leave

Advise the employee of the availability of shared parental leave if she and her partner meet the eligibility requirements, and ask whether she is considering opting into that scheme (although note that nothing she says at this stage will be binding).

Arrangements for return to work

Advise that the employer will be in touch shortly before the employee is due to return to work to invite them to have a discussion (whether in person or by telephone) about the arrangements for her return to work. This may include updating the employee on any changes that may have occurred to working arrangements or duties during her absence as well as discussing any necessary refresher training that the employee might require.

Flexible working

Explain how the employer deals with requests for flexible or part-time working. The employee should be aware that if she wishes to make any request she will need to do so well in advance of her return to work (say, by at least two months) if she wishes any new arrangement to take effect immediately on her return.

Returning from maternity leave

Changes to workplace or role

Update the employee on any changes that have occurred to her working arrangements or duties during her maternity leave. It is good practice to update the employee even on relatively minor changes, which do not significantly impact on her day-to-day work, such as desk moves or new colleagues. More significant changes, or those which might come as a surprise to the employee, may need to be handled sensitively and the employee may need to be consulted more formally, bearing in mind her right to suitable alternative employment in the event of a possible redundancy situation.


Consider whether the employee should be offered (or may be required to undertake) any training. This might be particularly relevant if there has been a significant legislative or regulatory change. The employee might need training on any new office systems.


Consider how much handover the employee will require with her maternity cover. Is there going to be any overlap or might it be possible for the employee to meet with her maternity cover prior to her formal return? If the latter approach is to be adopted, this could be arranged as a keeping-in touch (KIT) day.

Working arrangements

Ask the employee if she will be coming back on the same contract and give her an opportunity to ask about flexible working. Discuss the process for making a formal request to change her hours or work flexibly, either through the employer’s flexible working procedure or via the statutory right to request flexible working. Depending on when the meeting is taking place, it may be necessary to let the employee know that it might not be possible to implement any change immediately on her return if a request has not yet been submitted. Outline the likely timescale for such a request to be processed.

Other needs

Ask the employee if there are any other arrangements she might need on her return to work. She might, for example, need facilities for breastfeeding or expressing milk.

Family-related benefits

Outline any benefits the employer offers which might be of interest to new parents. For example, a crèche, childcare vouchers, emergency nanny services.

Shared parental leave

If the employee is returning with a substantial period of leave entitlement untaken, discuss whether she may be considering opting into the shared parental leave scheme with a view to taking any further leave before the child’s first birthday.

Should you require any assistance regarding maternity matters or any legal advice please call the BVA member legal advice service.


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