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Human Resources

Maternity Leave - Guidelines for Employees

What am I entitled to under the University Maternity Leave Agreement?

Following amendments to legislation made by the ‘Work and Families Act' 2006, new maternity regulations came into force on April 1st 2007.

  • All pregnant employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave including ordinary and additional leave;
  • Statutory maternity pay will be paid for 39 weeks (roughly nine months);
  • 13 weeks unpaid leave comprises the remainder of the 52 week entitlement.

The University provides an occupational maternity scheme which differs from Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and Leave, providing enhanced benefits, subject to compliance with notification requirements.

If you have been continuously employed by the University for a minimum of 12 months before the expected week of childbirth:

  • 8 weeks leave on full pay (inclusive of SMP);
  • followed by 16 weeks leave on half pay (plus, in addition to this, the lower rate of SMP);
  • followed by 15 weeks leave at the lower rate of SMP;
  • plus up to 13 further weeks of unpaid leave.

or

  • 16 weeks on full pay (inclusive of SMP);
  • followed by the lower rate of SMP for 23 weeks;
  • plus up to 13 weeks unpaid leave.

It is your choice whether you choose the first or second options in regard to occupational maternity pay. You may find it useful to access the Maternity Pay Calculator to give you an estimate of the pay you may receive following each option . Please note, this is an estimate only and does not take into account, tax and pension implications.

Your SMP commences on day 1 of your maternity leave regardless of which option you choose and runs concurrently with occupational maternity pay. You are eligible for up to 52 weeks leave in total regardless of the option chosen. It is your choice to decide when it is suitable for you to return to work however an indication of this date is required in the letter you send to the University in your formal notification.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for 39 weeks. Whilst you are receiving full occupational maternity pay, SMP will be included with this value. If you move onto half pay, SMP will be paid in addition to this value. Any remaining SMP will continue to be paid after your full or half pay has ceased.

If you receive half pay and SMP that, when combined, exceeds your gross contractual pay we would restrict your payment to the level of your gross contractual pay.

The 2012/13 rate of SMP, if you are earning more than the lower earnings limit, is the lower of £135.45 per week or 90% of average earnings for 39 weeks. The current rate of SMP can be found at the government website Gov.uk https://www.gov.uk/statutory-maternity-pay.

Am I eligible to receive SMP?

You must have 26 weeks or more service at the qualifying week (when you are 25 weeks pregnant), and your average weekly earnings must be at least equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance purposes (this is £5,564 per annum or £107 per week for the tax year 2012/13) to qualify for SMP.

If you have been continuously employed by the University for less than 12 months before the expected week of childbirth, but have 26 or more weeks' service at the Qualifying Week, and if you are earning more than the lower earnings limit:

  • You will receive SMP only from the University for 39 weeks. You will not receive any occupational maternity pay.

If you do not have 26 or more weeks' service at the Qualifying Week, or if you are earning less than the lower earnings limit:

  • You will not be entitled to SMP from the University. However, you will be entitled to 52 weeks' maternity leave (this applies regardless of length of service) and you should seek advice from your local Social Security or Jobcentre Plus office, as you may be eligible for other allowances such as Maternity Allowance. In such a case the Salaries section will issue a letter for you to be given to the Job Centre or Social Security office.

Employees working term time only

Please contact the Salaries Office for further clarification on your entitlement to maternity leave as this will vary according to the contract you are employed on. Please note that University maternity enhancements will only be paid during the period for which you are contracted to work.

Dual Employment

If you have more than one job .e.g. a position at the University and a position elsewhere, you may be eligible to receive SMP from each employer.

Please check with each employer to confirm your eligibility.

If you have more than one role at the University you will receive SMP plus benefits (subject to eligibility) based on your actual earnings.

What about antenatal appointments?

You are entitled to time off with pay to keep appointments for antenatal care made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife, or registered health visitor. You should be prepared to show your appointment card to your Head of Department if requested.

What if I am on probation at the time that I go on maternity leave?

Your probationary period is extended in line with your actual period of leave.

When can I start my maternity leave?

You can start your maternity leave at any time from the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth, which is around week 29 of your pregnancy.

You should provide formal notification of your pregnancy and intended start date of maternity leave preferably at the earliest opportunity but no later than the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth, which is when you are 25 weeks pregnant.

What if I want to change the date that I start my maternity leave?

You should give the University 28 days notice in writing.

What if the baby is born before the date maternity leave was due to start?

The leave starts automatically on the day after the date the baby is born. You must advise us of the birth as soon as reasonably practical.

What if I am absent from work because of illness during my pregnancy?

Normal sick leave provisions will usually apply. However if the illness is related to your pregnancy and the absence occurs during the 4 weeks before the week the baby is due, your maternity leave starts automatically on the day after the first day of absence. You must advise us if you are absent from work because of your pregnancy as soon as is reasonably practical.

What happens if I lose my child?

Childbirth is defined as the birth of a living child or the birth of a child whether living or dead, provided you have been pregnant for at least 24 weeks.

In the unfortunate event that you lose your child, normal University maternity arrangements will apply, provided you have been pregnant for at least 24 weeks. You will be asked to produce a doctor's or hospital certificate. This is a requirement for payment of SMP.

What if I am on a fixed term contract that is due to end?

Please contact your HR representative to discuss further.

What do I do about returning?

If your return to work date has not changed since you originally notified the University of your intention to take maternity leave, you do not need to notify the University of your intention to return to work as we will assume your return date is unchanged.

What if I need to change my return to work date?

If you wish to change the return date notified to the University in your formal notification letter, you need to provide 8 weeks notice of this change. You can do this at any stage prior to, or during, your maternity leave. You are entitled to take up to 52 weeks leave in total from the first day of your maternity leave (see ‘What am I entitled to?').

For health and safety reasons, you are not permitted by law to return to work within 2 weeks of childbirth.

What if I wish to return to work part time following my maternity leave?

You are entitled to resume your normal job on the same terms and conditions as if you had not been absent. However the University will give serious consideration to requests to vary working patterns, under the Right to Request Flexible Working.

You should submit your request in writing as early as practicable, and it is recommended that this should be no later than 8 weeks before the notified date of return.

If this is something you are seriously considering, it would be helpful if you could discuss it with your Head of Department before you go on maternity leave, or at the earliest available opportunity thereafter.

What about breastfeeding when I return to work?

The University is committed to providing a safe environment for mothers who wish to continue to provide breast milk. You must contact your line manager in advance of your return to advise whether you require such facilities for expressing and storing milk. Depending on the nature of your role, your manager may need to conduct a risk assessment and seek advice from Occupational Health. Your specific needs can be discussed with your line manager or HR in advance of your return so reasonable provisions can be made.

Can my employer contact me during maternity leave?

An employer can contact you on maternity leave to discuss a range of issues - eg to discuss plans for returning to work, or to keep you informed of important developments at work. The frequency and nature of the contact will depend on the nature of the work and any agreement reached between both parties before maternity leave commenced. Contact can be by telephone, email, letter, a visit to the workplace, or in other ways. It is useful to discuss and agree such arrangements before maternity leave commences for staying in touch with each other.

What are ‘Keeping in Touch' (KIT) days?

You can agree to work for up to a maximum of 10 days during your maternity leave under your normal contract of employment. Any amount of work done on a KIT day counts as one KIT day from the 10 days allowed.

KIT days are optional and can take place as long as both you and your manager have agreed for this to happen and agreement has been reached on what work will be undertaken during this time. Each KIT day and the work to be undertaken must be approved in advance by your manager. The type of work may be normal, day to day activity to assist the return to work process, enabling attendance at a conference, undertaking a training activity or attending a team meeting for example. KIT days do not normally involve working from home, such as checking emails.

KIT days are paid at your normal daily rate (based on 1/365th of annual salary) and can be paid in either full or half days only.

If you are still receiving SMP payments at the time of the KIT days you will continue to receive this as normal. Payment for KIT days will not exceed full pay and you cannot be paid more than one day's pay - this applies if you work a KIT day when you are still in receipt full pay via your maternity pay. If your maternity pay has reduced to half plus SMP, your pay will be increased up your normal rate when a ‘Keeping in Touch' day is used which means you will be paid for half day at your daily rate in addition to your SMP. If you are in the unpaid period of maternity leave your normal rate will be processed in this event. This arrangement only applies to KIT days.

Maternity leave start and end dates are not affected by KIT days as these form part of the whole maternity leave package and can only be taken during maternity leave.

KIT days are non pensionable.

KIT days can be taken at any stage during the maternity leave period (paid or unpaid), by agreement with your manager, with the exception of the first two weeks following the birth of your baby.

What about collecting my personal possessions during my absence?

If you are absent from your base of work for any length of time, it is your responsibility to have your personal possessions collected in a timely manner or to arrange with your line manager for them to be stored, if this is possible.

What if I am considering not returning to work after the birth?

You should discuss this with your HR representative at the earliest opportunity.

What if I am unable to return on the agreed date of return due to illness?

You must provide the University with a medical certificate to cover your absence. Normal sick leave provisions will apply.

What if I decide not to return to work at the end of the maternity leave period?

You will continue to be entitled to the remainder of any outstanding statutory maternity leave and pay, however you are required to provide as much notice as possible to the University and the absolute minimum should be your normal contractual notice.

Do I accrue holiday during my maternity leave?

Annual leave entitlement is accrued during maternity leave. However annual leave cannot be carried over from one holiday year to the next and if your maternity leave will fall over two holiday years, it is advisable that you take any outstanding entitlement before commencing your maternity leave.

Please note that where statutory and customary holidays fall during a maternity leave period, it is not possible to accrue these holidays and take time off once your maternity leave has ended.

Annual leave cannot be taken between paid and unpaid maternity pay periods. Annual leave can only be used before maternity leave commences or following the end of the maternity leave period, immediately before a return to work.

What about annual increments and pay increases due during my maternity leave?

While you are on maternity leave, your service with the University is continuous and you are entitled to any incremental rises due to you and any cost of living increases awarded.

What about applications for research leave and promotions while I am on maternity leave?

Your absence on maternity leave does not affect any future application for research leave, promotion, etc.

What about my pension and Benefits+ arrangements while I am on maternity leave?

If you are a member of one of the University's pension schemes, your membership will continue throughout your maternity leave. You will continue to pay pension contributions based on the rules of your particular scheme and employer contributions will be maintained for that period. If you are a member of Benefits+ arrangements, you will remain so during your period of maternity leave, unless there is a possibility that you may be disadvantaged. If that is the case, you will be removed from Benefits+ and reinstated upon your return to work if appropriate.

If you need further clarification on any pension issues, please contact:

USS (Grade 6 and above) or DUPS (Grades 1-5 inclusive)
Richard Walters 46951
r.a.walters@durham.ac.uk

Whom do I need to inform about my pregnancy?

It is advisable that you contact your HR representative at an early stage to ensure that you are clear about your entitlements, dates for notification, etc.

In order to minimise the risk to yourself and your unborn child you must contact the Occupational Health Adviser as soon as possible (Alice.Hobson@durham.ac.uk or ext 2707) to arrange for a workplace risk assessment to be carried out. It may be that adjustments need to be made and she can also offer general advice and answer any queries you may have. If you are considering becoming pregnant and you have any concerns regarding your working environment, please contact the Occupational Health Adviser.

Contact with the Human Resources Department and Occupational Health Adviser is always treated confidentially.

In addition, it is advisable that you notify your Head of Department or Section so that early consideration can be given to covering your post during your absence.

Formal notification

You should provide formal notification of pregnancy preferably at the earliest opportunity but no later than the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth, known as ‘The Qualifying Week', which is when you will be around 25 weeks pregnant. This notification should comprise of a written statement of when you intend to start your maternity leave and, where applicable, whether or not you wish to return to work within the University, providing an indication of return date where possible.  This date can be altered at a later date if your plans change, however you are required to provide the University with 8 weeks notice of this change.  The option you have chosen for payment of your maternity pay is also required at this time.

You are also required to provide a Medical Certificate from a registered medical practitioner or midwife stating the expected week of childbirth (you can use the MAT B1 form from your doctor or midwife) as soon as is reasonably practical.  Your Midwife or Doctor will issue this form between the 20 and 26 week stage of your pregnancy.