Seven Tips to Help Manage Maternity Leave

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Cecily Lalloo, Managing Director of Embrace HR, a consultancy specialising in HR support to Deputies and Case Managers, says that maternity leave can be a tricky time; both for the expectant mother dealing with pregnancy, and for the employer responsible for managing the employee while they are off.

The scenario

The recruitment campaign has been on-going for a while. The ideal candidate, Wilhelmina, is offered the job, and accepts, and a start date is agreed. An offer is sent to her along with all the necessary requirements for checks such as DBS, drivers’ licence, pre-employment health questionnaire. The start date is arranged, and a contract is drafted and sent, as well as mandatory training information. Wilhelmina powers through her training and probationary period, she settles into the role and three months later she informs her manager that she is pregnant. This may be an inconvenience to the organisation and the team. However, it is a time of celebration for Wilhelmina as it is her first pregnancy. She is anxious and excited. As an employer it is important to acknowledge how she feels and to support her as much as possible while she continues to do her job.

Here are our 7 Tips

  1. Breathe – when you hear the news!
  2. Don’t make comments about the short length of time she has been with you or how the training has just finished, and it is inconvenient.
  3. Congratulate Wilhelmina, ask how she wants her news to be conveyed to colleagues. She may not want anyone to know just yet. She may want to convey the news herself. If her work requires lifting and handling, she may need to advise colleagues earlier rather than later.
  4. Advise her that she must notify you formally in order to benefit from maternity leave and pay. It is helpful to send her information so that she has a guide of what to notify and by when.
  5. Remember to let your HR adviser or manager know that she is pregnant, ensuring that Wilhelmina agrees. Keep in touch with HR and advise any changes so they can advise you. A maternity pack should be available to Wilhelmina as there are certain dates that need to be met.
  6. A risk assessment for pregnant mothers must be undertaken. This is best done by someone who works closely with Wilhelmina. The risk assessment should be reviewed periodically throughout the pregnancy. When Wilhelmina returns to work, a new mother’s risk assessment should be undertaken.
  7. Discussions about holidays, time off for antenatal visits and maternity leave dates need to be diarised and discussed, and cover for absences arranged.

What you should know

The same statutory obligations apply to managing maternity leave whether the organisation is small or large. Whether there are 2 workers or 2,000 workers.

Often there is more than one person who is pregnant or on maternity leave at the same time. It is important to manage the process carefully. There will be many conversations as changes take place, not least if baby arrives early, your worker is ill. Speak regularly with your pregnant mother so that the management of her time at work and the absences are covered as well as possible. Remember that if you decide on a temporary worker to cover whilst she is away, that person must not be offered the role permanently. If there are any changes to her job role, communicate with her.

Ensure that you arrange how your employee would like to be communicated with whilst on maternity leave. Women on maternity leave can often feel isolated from what is happening at work so it is important to make sure they still feel part of the team. There is a balance to be struck, let her know what you will contact her about and that you or your HR person can be contacted at any time.

Have a discussion before your worker starts their maternity leave about how much contact they would like, as preferences will vary. Send news updates and invitations to social events and make sure you keep them informed of any important team decisions. However, if you want to ask them to attend work or carry out some trainings then do so via Keeping In Touch (KIT) days if they are interested.

Pregnancy should be a happy time for your workers who will be going through many changes. However, it is a normal life event, and most people can work long into their pregnancy with the right management and adjustments. Adjustments that may be necessary for shift workers are different working times and refresher training in lifting and handling or remove some elements of the job and replace with others. Occasionally, if adjustments cannot be made, suspension may be necessary. Speak with HR before taking this decision.

Provided you understand the minimum legal requirements, the best way to show support as an employer is through excellent communication. The more your employee feels they can be open about their preferences and intentions, the better placed you will be to respond.

It is important that the maternity leave process is started as soon as notification of a pregnancy is received.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here. 

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Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited provide a specialised HR service to the care sector, and small businesses, from recruitment through to exit.