Employers plan October Maternity Extension

Employment consultants Croner Consulting has urged employers affected by 5 October 2008 changes to maternity leave benefits to make plans now.

Maternity Leave

As announced earlier this year, female employees expecting a child on or after 5 October this year will be entitled to non–cash benefits throughout both ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave.

The employee will now be entitled to any non–cash benefits named in their contract, such as the accrual of annual leave and use of their company car, for the full 52 weeks of maternity leave. This comprises the 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and the subsequent 26 weeks, which make up additional maternity leave.

Currently, employees on maternity leave only receive their non–cash benefits throughout the 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave. Croner urged employers to meet with any pregnant employees to discuss the arrangement of their absence in advance. Croner’s employment technical consultant Gillian Dowling said:

“What the employer needs to do is work out the best way of doing this, and have a meeting with the employee to discuss it. What we recommend is that the lady that’s about to go on maternity leave takes some leave before she goes and some leave when she comes back to balance it out, if you can arrange that amicably.”

“If the employer doesn’t sort this out in advance they could end up with problems such as all the holiday entitlement being taken at the end of the maternity leave.”

Dowling added that if the employee’s contract includes a company car, the employer could be accused of discrimination if they try to negotiate out of it during maternity leave.

“It would be discriminatory to negotiate out of the company car, so if the woman has that benefit while working, the employer will have to budget for this during maternity leave. However, not all women take the full 52 weeks of maternity leave; a lot of people only take six months or even 39 weeks, because statutory pay only lasts for 39 weeks.”

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) also reminded businesses that they should prepare for several additional new pieces of legislation on the 1 October common commencement date. ACCA head of business John Davies said:

“October 1 represents the second key date of 2008 for the introduction of new business legislation, under the government’s system of storing up new workplace measures for release just twice a year.”

Other legislation due to be implemented on 1 October includes:

  • Further amendments to company law.
  • Trade mark rules — the period for filing an opposition is reduced from three months to two months, with a right to extend the period to three months. Also, any person can bring proceedings before a company names adjudicator to consider an objection to a limited company’s registered name either if it is the same as one in which the applicant has goodwill, or it is so like it to mislead by suggesting a connection between the company and the applicant.
  • Minimum wage changes — The standard rate for employees aged over 21 goes up by 21p to £5.73 an hour, with those aged 18 to 21 receiving £4.77, a 17p increase.

For more information on changes to company law legislation, visit the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform website

For business guidance on Trade mark rules from 1 October, visit the UK Intellectual Property Office website

Maternity leave benefit extension: Employers urged to plan

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