Tips for SMEs on Managing Maternity and Paternity Leave
Maternity leave is a subject that has hit the headlines when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern became the first elected world leader to take maternity leave during her term of office. She announced that she would only be taking six weeks of leave and would effectively remain in charge of the country in the meantime. The issue of how much time off mothers and fathers should take to bring up their new arrival is just as important for small businesses. Larger companies generally find it easier to cope with staff starting a family because of their greater resources. However, dealing with the issue need not be an insurmountable challenge for even the smallest of companies.
Be Aware of the Law
There are so many aspects to the legislation now. Employers need to be aware of maternity leave and pay, pension and holiday entitlements, and other related issues including flexible working hours. Failure to fulfil your legal obligations could be extremely damaging to your company’s reputation, as well as costing you a lot of money.
Remember that help is available. When you can claim up to 92% of Statutory Maternity Pay back from the government – possibly more, depending on your level of National Insurance contributions. Many legal practices offer advice which will be tailored to your own circumstances, while ACAS has compiled a guide to the latest regulations, and advice on ‘best practice’.
Don’t Forget Both Parents
As from 2015, mothers and fathers are entitled to claim leave if they have a child, under what is called Shared Parental Leave. This means that the either parent can stay at home to look after their child, or both if they prefer. Parents are also entitled to return to work for part of the time and to resume their leave later. Remember that people who are adopting a child have rights too.
Planning ahead is essential to make the whole transition process as smooth as possible. The employee who is going to be taking leave needs to write down all their current responsibilities. Identify which – if any – members of your staff can take on any of these tasks. Work out if you will need to take on a temporary replacement.
This should all be done as quickly as possible after you learn about any pregnancy or adoption. This gives you more time to prepare, rather than forcing you to make rushed, last-minute decisions.
Treat Them Well
Realise that the people who are claiming this type of leave are going through a potentially life-changing time in their lives as well. If you, and other members of staff, show them courtesy and respect, not only will you not fall foul of any legislation, but you are more likely to keep them on your workforce. This is especially important for smaller businesses where high-quality employees are so valuable.
Steps you can take include making sure your premises are a safe and welcoming place for pregnant women. And think about ways in which you can meet the new mother or father’s needs. Consider offering the employee flexible working hours after any birth.
Keep in Touch
It is a good idea maintain regular contact with employees during any period of maternity or paternity leave. It lets the worker know that you are thinking about them. Having a regular point of contact enables you to find out the employee’s thoughts are about returning to work. It also enables the person on leave to keep up to date about any developments at the company.
Keeping in touch, or KIT, is also the official name given to a part of the current legislation. It means that employees have the right to work up to 10 days during their maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave. It is optional, and days, pay and hours must be agreed in advance.