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Maternity, paternity and adoption – Everything you need to know as an employer?

Maternity, paternity and adoption – Everything you need to know as an employer?

This post will inform you all about the different information you need to know as an employer if someone you employ is planning to have a baby – whether they are an expecting mother or father or are planning to adopt. Understanding employees’ rights is vital if you are to uphold good working relationships and avoid upset or claims against you.

Most pregnant employees are entitled to maternity leave and maternity pay, while new fathers are entitled to paternity leave and paternity pay, and similar entitlements apply for employees who adopt a child.

Maternity leave and maternity pay

All pregnant employees will be entitled to paid time-off for ante-natal care and can take up to 52 weeks' statutory maternity leave. Maternity leave can begin any time from 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. New mothers must take a minimum of two weeks' leave after the birth of a child, or four weeks if they work in a factory.

An employee who is expecting a baby has their employment rights protected throughout maternity leave. After maternity leave, mothers are generally entitled to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions. As an employer, you must not discriminate against an employee for any reason to do with pregnancy or maternity leave.

Most pregnant employees will qualify for statutory maternity pay for 39 weeks of their maternity leave, unless they have only worked for you for a short time or have very low earnings. SMP is paid at 90‰ of weekly earnings for the first six weeks, then 90‰ of weekly earnings or £139.58 per week whichever is lower for the remaining 33 weeks.

To qualify for SMP your employee must earn at least the lower earnings limit (£112 2015-16), have worked for you continuously for 26 weeks up to and including the 15th week before the baby's due date and have provided you with the necessary paperwork.

Separately, parents with young, disabled or recently adopted children have certain further rights to unpaid leave.

Paternity leave and paternity pay

Most employees who are new fathers qualify for ordinary paternity leave when their baby is born, unless the employee has only worked for you for a short time. New fathers can take a block of either one or two weeks’ paid leave, and the employee’s employment rights are protected during paternity leave.

New fathers also qualify for statutory paternity pay unless they’ve only worked for you for a short period of time or have very low earnings.

Adoption leave

An employee who adopts a child qualifies for adoption leave and adoption pay on similar grounds to those for maternity leave and maternity pay. Where a couple adopt a child, only one can claim adoption leave and pay. The other can claim paternity leave and paternity pay, regardless of gender, provided he or she qualifies.

Again, fathers and adoptive parents have further rights to unpaid leave. This includes the right of fathers, partners and parents-to-be to take unpaid time off work to attend up to two ante-natal appointments.

Shared Parental Leave

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) has now been introduced for babies and children due or adopted on or after 5 April 2015. You can read more about it in our post here.