Changes to Maternity Leave Entitlement
The due date for further changes to maternity leave entitlement approaches.
Employers of expectant mothers whose babies are due on or after October the 5th this year, will find it is not just her that is starting out on a new journey. As a result of a ruling made by the High Court last year, October 5th also marks the due date of changes that employers must make to the contractual benefits entitled to staff on maternity leave. Sue Isaacson of The HR Dept. explores the latest legal ruling on how pregnant women should be treated by their employers.
In a landmark case brought last year by the Equal Opportunities Commission to bring UK law into line with EU requirements, the High Court has ruled that pregnant women whose babies are due on or after the 5th of October will enjoy an increased entitlement to contractual benefits during her maternity leave.
By ‘benefits’, the regulations mean perks such as gym membership, company car and mobile phone, as well as the accrual of contractual holiday entitlement.
Maternity leave is currently divided into two parts; 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML). Prior to the ruling, an employer was only obliged to provide an employee’s contractual benefits for the period covering Ordinary Maternity Leave. For all women whose babies are due on or after October 5th, 2008, employers will be obliged to provide contractual benefits for the entire 52 weeks.
The ruling makes a clear differentiation between perks and wages. So, if a car allowance is paid as part of the wages package for example, a woman on maternity leave will not receive this. It also stresses that mothers may not take holiday entitlement during maternity leave, but must do so before it starts or after returning, regardless of whether they have opted to take the full entitlement of 52 weeks or not.
On the ball employers will recognise that company policies may need reviewing and should be discussed with pregnant employees before they start maternity leave.
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