How To Create First Time Maternity And Paternity Leave Policies
In the lifespan of every fledgling company there comes a time when putting in place a policy for maternity and paternity leave becomes a priority. Don’t make any assumptions and be taken by surprise; if you’re employing humans, it’s going to happen!
Here are a few different factors to consider when the time arises:
The legal stuff
We all want to be on the right side of the law, so here’s what matters when it comes to maternity and paternity leave:
Maternity leave entitlement
Eligible team members are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, broken into two sections:
“Ordinary Maternity Leave” - the first 26 weeks
“Additional Maternity Leave” - the second 26 weeks
Statutory maternity pay
Again, this is divided into two sections:
During the first 6 weeks: 90% of a team member’s average weekly earnings (before tax).
During the remaining 33 weeks: 90% of a team member’s average weekly earnings OR £140.98 a week (whichever is lowest).
If in doubt, you’re able to use this statutory maternity pay (SMP) calculator to help.
Paternity leave entitlement
Eligible members of the team can choose between 1 week or 2 consecutive weeks’ paternity leave.
There is also legislation around important dates during the pregnancy. Unpaid leave can be taken to accompany a pregnant woman to antenatal appointments.
Statutory paternity pay
Either 90% of the team member’s average weekly earnings OR £140.98 a week (whichever is lowest).
Beyond the law
Although these are the minimum requirements, your company may wish to put together a more attractive package. Maternity leave and paternity leave is a key place to demonstrate your commitment to supporting top talent throughout their careers.
Having a child is a life changing event. It may become very difficult for someone to fulfil their obligations as a parent while still working on a standard 9-5 schedule.
If you are serious about helping parents to continue to work, you may consider providing flexible working hours or allowing job shares.
Even if part time hours aren’t an option, allowing a team member to attend doctor’s appointments at short notice to regularly leaving 30 minutes early in order to catch bed-time with the kids can make a huge difference. These types of lifestyle adjustments are not acknowledged in the law, so it’s up to you to decide how your company handles them.
Attitudes towards maternity leave
It may sound obvious, but maternity leave isn’t a holiday, and it shouldn’t be treated as such.
Think about what you can do to welcome a new mother as they return to work. This can be an extremely stressful period, so be attentive to where you can support them as they negotiate their changing routine.
Adjusting paternity leave start date
The law allows for some flexibility around the start date for paternity leave. As the time allowed is more limited than the amount provided for maternity leave, it’s important this time is used to its maximum value.
One small policy change that can make a meaningful difference to new parents is starting paternity leave on the date that the new family leave the hospital. After a baby is born, it’s not uncommon for a couple to be in the hospital for upwards of ten days. Returning home for the first time without the support of hospital staff is where paternity leave is at it’s most valuable.
Be mindful of evolving policies
Every employer wants to treat their staff with respect and give them the best conditions for family life, but unfortunately that is not always practical and the company might have to fall back onto the statutory minimums. This is especially common for companies in their infancy, who have limited staff and budgets.
However, as the business evolves, your policies should evolve as well.
Set review dates in place for when revenue, fundraising and headcount milestones are hit. Make maternity and paternity leave a priority and your team will thank you when they need it.
Out of sight not out of mind
Just because members of your team are out of the office for extended periods of time while starting a family doesn’t means that they should be isolated from the company.
Work can be a central part of someone’s life, and that doesn’t end when a mother or father is on maternity or paternity leave.. Keeping a person in the loop with what is happening at the company, inviting them into the office and including them in the Christmas party are essential ways to demonstrate that you’re excited to welcome them back when they’re ready.