Returning from Maternity Leave

News on 18 April 2018

When an employee goes off on Maternity Leave, it’s easy enough to lose touch with them and be unprepared for their return. It’s also a common preconception that your employee will stay off for a full year and then want to work part time when they do come back. Some employees will return earlier, and some may want to return on a full-time basis.


How long is Maternity Leave?

Maternity leave is up to a maximum of 52 weeks. Employees can return to work any time after the 2nd week (4th week if they work in a factory).


What do I do if my employee wants to return early?

If an employee wants to return to work early, they should give you at least 8 weeks’ notice in writing.

For example: Jane wishes to return from Maternity leave on Monday 1st October 2018. This will mean that she needs to write to you to tell you she wants to return by Friday 3rd August at the latest.


Do I have to let them come back to the same job?

This will depend on the how long they have been off on Maternity Leave.

The first 26 weeks of Maternity Leave is called Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML). If an employee returns to work during this period, they are legally entitled to return to the job they were employed to do before they went off.

The second part of Maternity Leave, the remaining 26 weeks, is called Additional Maternity Leave (AML). If an employee returns to work during this period you should allow them to return to the job they were employed to do before going on Maternity Leave, if it is still available. If that job no longer exists then you can offer them a suitable alternative, on no less favourable terms. In reality this means that the job needs to have similar work, similar status, and the same pay.


What about Holidays?

So, your employee has been off for a year on Maternity Leave, and one of the first questions they ask you is “how many days holidays do I have for the rest of the year?”

In all honesty, it’s a perfectly reasonable question. While an employee is off on Maternity Leave, they still accrue annual leave.

It’s always a good idea if someone’s Maternity Leave spans 2 holiday years, to allow them to tag any accrued holidays on to the end of their Maternity Leave. It makes it easier to manage their holiday entitlement for that year.

If you imagine an employee is due to return from Maternity Leave in September and your holiday year runs from January to December. This means that they only have 4 months to take 12 months’ worth of holidays. This can cause massive disruption to your business.

However, if you speak to your employee about tagging their accrued annual leave to the end of their Maternity Leave, this will mean they get a bit more time with the baby, they use up a large amount of accrued leave, and it's less disruption to your business.


What if they want to come back part-time?

If someone wants to come back to work on a part-time basis, you need to let them know they have to submit a Flexible Working Request.

Don’t panic! We can help with Flexible Working Requests.


What happens if they don’t want to return?

Sometimes returning to work after having a baby doesn’t suit everyone. If one of your employees decides that its best for them not to come back, then they would just need to put their resignation in writing, as any other employee would.

They would still need to give their contractual notice. If their notice period ends after the date they should have returned from Maternity Leave, you can ask them to work the difference. For example, Nafeesa has a 4 week notice period, but is due to return from Maternity Leave in 2 weeks and she’s now resigned. You can ask her to work the 2-week’s difference.


If they leave, do they have to pay back their Maternity Pay?

If you are only paying Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), then the answer is no.

If you pay your employees Contractual Maternity Pay (anything higher than SMP), then there should be a clause in their contract of employment or the staff handbook to say how long they have to spend back at work before they leave.

If there is a clause in the contract or part of the handbook says that Contractual Maternity Leave needs to be paid back if the employee leaves – they will only need to pay back anything over the amount of SMP.


Need help? If you need any help with pregnant employees, employees returning from Maternity Leave, Flexible Working, or just want to talk it through with an Advisor, get in touch! 03300 414 636