Maternity Leave: What to Expect When They’re Expecting

Claire Leigh of Brampton Recruitment explains how employers can best manage maternity leave and make the transition as smooth as possible

Maternity Leave: What to Expect When They’re Expecting

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Hillary Clinton’s former adviser, hit the headlines in April 2017 by claiming a year’s maternity leave is too long for working mothers. Maternity leave is a controversial subject, but communication is vital – particularly for expectant mothers and their employers.

Finding cover, training and changes to working hours upon return are just some of the worries employers may have at the back of their mind when a member of staff announces a pregnancy.

Eligible women are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave by law, 39 of which can be paid. Whether you agree that an upper limit of a year is too long, there is little doubt that this period must be adequately planned for.

Options

The decision of whether to hire a new member of staff on a temporary basis, or cover the role internally is multi-faceted and unique to every situation.

Aside from recruiting a new member of staff, options include a part time member of staff taking on more hours, a transfer from another part of the organisation, reprioritisation of workload across the team, or postponing activities if the role is project based.

Determining the plan of action requires the manager to be knowledgeable and comfortable communicating with their workforce.

Keep in touch

Despite not being able to ask in advance if the mother intends to return to work, there are steps the employer can take to ensure the return is as smooth as possible. Keeping in touch by phone, e-mail or letter, in addition to involvement in social activities and keep-in-touch days, can maintain positive working relationships while a member of staff is on maternity leave.

Return

Plans such as flexible working can take up to 14 weeks to arrange so it is important to work backwards from the expected date of return, to ensure everything is in order.

Even on return, challenges can arise. If reduced hours are requested but the role doesn’t lend itself to part-time work, the employer and employee may be able to collaborate to find a suitable compromise. In a situation such as this having as much time as possible to organise plans is an invaluable benefit.

A temporary employee’s contract may end when a permanent employee returns from maternity leave. Handling this changeover needs to be considered well in advance of their return. Many of the decisions faced will depend on how the new mother chooses to return. The employee has a statutory right to request flexible working if they have been employed by you for 26 weeks, which you have a statutory duty to consider.

Regardless of the decisions and challenges faced by an employer, planning ahead grants time to make decisions and minimises disruption to all employees. Whether you think a year is too long or not enough, respecting the mother’s wishes allows for the leave and return to be as smooth as possible.


Claire Leigh is director of commercial and financial specialist recruitment agency at Brampton Recruitment

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