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Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Maternity Leave & Pay - Guidelines for Managers

This is a guide to Maternity leave and pay

What do I need to consider when a member of my staff notifies me of her pregnancy?

Refer the member of staff to appropriate sources of advice such as:

It is the responsibility of Line Managers to complete a risk assessment of the expectant mother’s workplace / environment / duties and conditions. Following completion of the risk assessment a referral to Occupational Health may be required, particularly if any specialist advice is required.

Further information and guidance on completing the risk assessment can be found on the University Health & Safety Service webpages.

Remember to establish if she wishes to keep knowledge of her pregnancy restricted only to those who need to know at this stage.

If you wish to discuss or clarify details please contact your HR representative.

What is the member of staff entitled to?

All pregnant employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave including ordinary and additional leave.

  1. Statutory maternity pay (SMP) will be paid for 39 weeks (roughly nine months)
  2. 13 weeks unpaid leave comprises the remainder of the 52 week entitlement

Talk to the member of staff about any plans for leave at this stage.

Depending on when you are notified, the member of staff may not have made any firm decisions about the practicalities of the maternity leave.

The member of staff is required to notify the University formally of the pregnancy no later than the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, known as the ‘Qualifying Week', which is around week 25 of her pregnancy and the intended start date of maternity leave.

To help you plan how to cover her absence, it is helpful to have a discussion with the member of staff at an early stage about whether she is considering returning to work in the University after the birth, and whether she has given any thought to how much leave she may take. This must obviously be handled sensitively and tactfully. Bear in mind that she does not have to make any firm commitment at this stage, and that employees who wish to vary their working pattern on return from maternity leave have the right to request a flexible working pattern. You should contact your HR representative to discuss the request before making a response.

If she subsequently changes her mind about how much leave she wishes to take (e.g. she wishes to take a longer period of unpaid leave), she must give 8 weeks' notice of the change and you must give full consideration to the request as she is entitled to take up to 52 weeks in total as maternity leave. Although you would like as much notice as possible of any proposed changes, you cannot be unreasonable. If you feel it is not possible from an operational point of view to accommodate the request, please contact your HR representative.

Note: The member of staff remains your employee during her maternity leave. She is entitled to benefit from any salary increases and accrues annual leave entitlement during the maternity leave period.

Annual Leave

As annual leave, customary and public holidays accrue normally during maternity leave the employee may wish to plan leave around start and finish dates of the maternity period. Annual leave cannot be carried over from one holiday year to the next; therefore she may wish to take any outstanding entitlement for the current year before commencing her maternity leave.

On returning to work the employee may have accrued a number of days leave particularly if returning in the next calendar year and she may wish to extend her time away from work by using the days accrued .

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

Time off

The member of staff is entitled to paid time off for antenatal care. You may ask to see her appointment card if you wish, other than for the first appointment, as she will receive all related documents and appointment details at this time from her Doctor or Midwife.

If the member of staff is absent from work because of illness during her pregnancy, normal sick leave provisions will usually apply. However if the illness is related to her pregnancy and the absence occurs during the 4 weeks before the week the baby is due, maternity leave starts automatically at that point.

It is essential therefore that any medical certificates are forwarded to the Payroll department as soon as you receive them and that you notify the HR Office immediately if you believe that maternity leave may have been triggered due to pregnancy-related illness in the last 4 weeks.

If the member of staff is unable to return from maternity leave on the agreed date due to illness, she must provide the University with a medical certificate to cover her absence, and normal sick leave provisions will apply.

Temporary cover

Under normal circumstances, you will be given sufficient notice to organise temporary cover for the maternity leave. You should seek financial approval at the earliest opportunity if you need an additional member of staff to cover the post.

Rather than simply recruiting someone to exactly the same job description, it can be helpful to go through the job description with the post-holder to identify which duties and responsibilities have to be done during her absence, and which could be left until her return, e.g. they will not occur within the period of absence, or which ‘add value' but can beheld back until her return.

This will then leave a more accurate and appropriate job description for the maternity cover - your HR representative will advise you if the grade of the temporary post needs to be adjusted. Ensure that the advertisement and further particulars indicate that the post is only to cover maternity leave for a fixed period, and that this is also made clear during the interview process.

Note: The member of staff is entitled to return to the same or equivalent job on the same terms and conditions of employment as if she had not been absent. If you foresee any problems in her returning to her original post, consult your HR representative at the earliest opportunity.

You cannot retain the temporary cover and move the returning employee elsewhere or refuse to accept her back.

When an employee is in a salary sacrifice arrangement or during maternity leave signs up to a salary sacrifice arrangement, this will continue during maternity leave. If the value of the salary sacrifice is greater than the employee’s occupational pay at any point during the leave, the department will cover the shortfall.

Employees must actively manage their account and ensure childcare vouchers are used within a year of purchase otherwise it may not be possible to refund the vouchers once issued.

Can I contact the employee during maternity leave?

An employer can make contact with a member of staff on maternity leave to discuss a range of issues - e.g. to discuss plans for returning to work, or to keep her 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. You should let her know of any changes happening at work, including job vacancies, of opportunities to attend training or other events which could be included as part of her ‘keeping in touch days'.

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

KIT days enable an employee on maternity leave to do up to a maximum of 10 days’ work as long as both the member of staff and the manager have agreed for this to happen and agreement has been reached on what work will be undertaken during this time. Any amount of work done on a KIT day counts as one KIT day from the 10 days allowance. Each KIT day and the work to be undertaken must be approved in advance by the line 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, for example, checking emails.

Payment for KIT days is at normal daily rate (based on 1/260th of annual salary) and can be paid in either full or half days. If the employee is still receiving SMP this will not impact on or interrupt any SMP payments being made. KIT days are non-pensionable.

Payment for KIT days will not exceed full pay, staff cannot be paid more than one day's pay - this applies if the member of staff works a KIT day when they are still in receipt of full pay via their maternity pay. If maternity pay has reduced to half plus SMP the employees pay will be increased up to her normal rate when a KIT day is used. If she is in the unpaid period of maternity leave or if she does not qualify for maternity pay, her 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 can be taken at any stage during the maternity leave period (either in paid or unpaid periods), by agreement with the employer, with the exception of the first two weeks following the birth of the baby. KIT days are optional during maternity leave so it is important these are agreed in advance where possible.

  • Departments must inform Payroll of any KIT days taken by informing their Payroll contact by email.
  • Departments SHOULD NOT use this for normal maternity leave; it is only for notifying Payroll of staff who have attended work and used a KIT day for this purpose.

Requests to return part-time.

You should contact your HR representative for information if you receive a request to return to work on a part-time basis, or for any other change to the working pattern.

You must give sympathetic consideration to requests to return on a part-time or job share basis. Legislation gives employees, who wish to vary their working pattern on return from maternity leave, the right to request a flexible working pattern. This is not an automatic right to change the hours or location of work, however, applications must be dealt with following a set procedure and timescale, and an application may only be refused due to clear business grounds. You must consider the request very carefully.

Do not dismiss the request because you believe it will be ‘inconvenient' either to you directly or to the department or because you cannot see how it could work. Part-time and job share arrangements can and do work very well within the University.

Please contact your HR representative if you receive any request for flexible working, or if you know that a member of staff is considering making a request.

What about return to work dates?

Staff are asked to indicate their return date in their formal notification of pregnancy. If their return to work date does not change since they originally notified the University of their intention to take maternity leave, employees do not need to confirm their intention to return to work. If an employee wishes to change their return date whilst on maternity leave, they must provide 8 weeks notice of the amended date.

Upon returning to work

If the employee lets you know she will be breastfeeding you must talk to her about any arrangements you will need to make. You should seek Occupational Health advice when completing any risk assessment and remove any risk found. Facilities must be provided for an employee to rest and store expressed milk. The risk assessment should identify any health and safety risks to the employee as a breastfeeding mother or to her child.

Please refer to the guidelines for employees for greater detail or contact your HR representative to discuss further.