One of your employees has just shared the good news: they’re pregnant! While you couldn’t be happier for them during this exciting time, you’re also thinking about what this means for your business and what the standard employer responsibilities for pregnant employees are. Here are the most important things you need to keep in mind when a member of your team is expecting:

Your responsibilities as an employer start as soon as you find out an employee is pregnant

Even before your employee is away on leave with their beautiful newborn, you have several obligations as an employer. As soon as you’re informed, in writing, that an employee is pregnant, you must:

  • Carry out a risk assessment: if there are any conditions or circumstances that could present a risk to either your employee or their child throughout their pregnancy, you’ll need to either remove them or make an alternative arrangement. Learn more about risk assessments for pregnant workers here.
  • Allow reasonable time off for scans, midwife appointments, and other forms of antenatal care
  • Ensure fair treatment to your pregnant employee, including by other colleagues: any unfair treatment related to an employee’s pregnancy is considered discrimination, and you may be held liable even for the behaviour of another employee on your team

We also recommend you start discussing and planning for your employee’s leave period as soon as possible, but remember: you can’t apply any pressure to them in regards to returning to work, and your employee is allowed to change their mind if they give you sufficient written notice.

Eligible employees are allowed up to 52 weeks of maternity leave

Once your employee has an expected due date, they’re able to start their maternity leave up to 11 weeks before that date. They’re then allowed 26 weeks of “Ordinary Maternity Leave,” and 26 weeks of “Additional Maternity Leave” for a total of 52 weeks, or 13 months. However, the last 13 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave are unpaid.

How much or how little of their maternity leave an employee takes is entirely up to them. The only requirement is that they take at least two weeks off after the birth, or four weeks if they’re a factory worker.

You’ll need to pay SMP for up to 39 weeks to eligible employees

As an employer, you’ll need to pay an employee on maternity or paternity leave something called Statutory Maternity Pay, or SMP. This means:

Paying 90% of their salary for the first six weeks of their leave
Paying a weekly allowance of £156.66 for up to 33 weeks

Remember, the final 13 weeks of their allotted 52 weeks of leave are unpaid.

Your employees retain their employment rights even while on leave

In addition to receiving SMP, all of an employee’s employment rights are still protected while they’re away on maternity or paternity leave. This means, for example, that they’ll continue to accrue holiday while on leave and may even use some or all of this accrued holiday time at the end of their allotted leave.

Your employee also gets 10 Keeping in Touch (KIT) days while on leave. Just like they say on the tin, KIT days are meant to keep an employee in touch with the workplace and should be paid at an hourly or daily rate that’s equivalent to their usual pay. These are entirely optional, and must be agreed to by both you and your employee.

If an employee takes more than 10 KIT days, this triggers the end of their leave.

Finally, one of the key employer responsibilities for pregnant employees is that if any employee returns to work within 9 months they must get the exact same job and pay as before. If they take more than 9 months, you can, in theory, change their role to a “similar” job, though it must have the same or better pay, terms and conditions as their previous role.

You can offer extra leave, pay and benefits as an employer

Of course, everything mentioned above is the bare minimum requirements you’re held to by law. If you choose, you can implement a company maternity policy that offers more leave time, pay or benefits to your team to support them as they grow their family. This is also a great way to attract more talented employees to your team.

If you choose to implement a company policy, you must make it clear to your team in writing and offer the same conditions to everyone so there’s no risk of preference.

You can get extra support if you’re unable to cover SMP

You want to be excited for your employee when they share the good news, but it’s okay if a part of you is also worried. You’re a business owner, and that means having to consider all the practicalities of what this development means for you, your business and the rest of your team.

The good news is, there’s support if you need it.

You can apply for extra funding from HMRC to help you cover SMP. If you want more personalized guidance on employer responsibilities for pregnant employees, it’s best to speak with an expert. Start by filling out this form and we’ll get in touch to discuss how we can best support you, both through this specific time in your business and beyond.