What should you do before you go on maternity leave?
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There is lots to do in the run up to your maternity leave.
There are lots of things to do to prepare for the arrival of a new baby, at work and home. Here, we’ll concentrate on what you need to do in relation to work, including telling your employer that you’re pregnant, what happens with holiday during maternity leave, and keeping in touch while you’re away from work.
When should I announce my pregnancy at work?
So, you’re pregnant, and are looking forward to the arrival of your new baby. (Whispered) congratulations! The early stages of pregnancy can be wonderful, exciting, scary, sickly, and everything. If you’ve had previous experience of miscarriage, getting pregnant again can be an especially daunting time.
Which leads us to the question of when to tell your employer. You have to notify your employer that you’re pregnant and planning to take maternity leave by the 15th week before your due date. They may well have noticed your pregnancy before then of course, but that’s the latest you need to tell your employer in order to get maternity leave and pay.
Aside from this backstop date, it’s up to you when you say anything. Some women will want to explain why they’re feeling sick and perhaps taking time off in the early weeks, but others won’t want to say anything until after the 12-week scan. If you’ve had previous miscarriages, you may not want to tempt fate by saying anything, or you may want to let your line manager know at least (even if not HR), just in case you suddenly need time off.
In short, there are no hard and fast rules, aside from the backstop date.
What happens to my holiday while on maternity leave?
Holiday continues to accrue during maternity leave. So, if you take the full year’s maternity leave, you’ll have a full year’s worth of holiday accrued that you can take when you return to work. Employers must allow you to carry over holiday into the next holiday year while you’re on maternity leave.
Notably, your holiday accrues at the rate that applies before you go on maternity leave (assuming you don’t agree to change your hours permanently before maternity leave). This means that if you’re full time before maternity leave, but agree a flexible working arrangement that starts at the end of maternity leave where you’ll be working on a part time basis, holiday will have accrued at full time rates during maternity leave. Holiday will accrue pro rata to your new working hours from the start of your new arrangement though.
Do I need to take all my holidays before maternity leave?
You can’t take annual leave at the same time as maternity leave. As such, you have to take your holiday before or after maternity leave. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you can’t go away on holiday during maternity leave, it’s just that you’re still on maternity leave, not annual leave at the time!
You should agree with your employer in the usual way when you’ll take your accrued holiday around your maternity leave. Some employers will ask you to take all holiday that’s accrued up to the start of maternity leave before you go off on maternity leave, which “clears the decks” and avoids you carrying over a more than the year’s holiday that will accrue while you’re on maternity leave.
Many women add holiday to the start and end of their maternity leave. This means you’re being paid normal salary during the holiday periods, which can soften the blow of the drop to statutory maternity pay.
You can go away on holiday during maternity leave, but NOT take it as annual leave.
Can I work during maternity leave?
You are still employed by your employer during maternity leave. You can work for your employer for up to 10 days during the period you’re receiving Statutory Maternity Pay without ending your maternity leave or losing your right to Statutory Maternity Pay. These are called “Keeping in Touch” or “KIT” days.
However, you can’t start working for a different employer during maternity leave, or your entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay will end. You’ll also probably be breaching your contract with your employer if the contract says you can’t work for anyone else while employed.
Can you request flexible working before maternity leave?
Yes. If you meet the qualification criteria, you can ask for flexible working at any time.
At present, you can only make one request every 12 months, but this is changing to two requests per 12 months.
It can be tricky though to anticipate what flexibility you may need before the baby has arrived, and before you can be sure of things like what days your chosen childcare will be available. It may be best to wait a bit before requesting flexible working for after your return to work.
That said, pregnancy can lead to a variety of challenges. You may want to ask for flexibility during your pregnancy, so you can work from home more often, or shift your hours to avoid travelling at peak times. This would be a temporary flexible working request, just to cover the period until you go on maternity leave. Read more about temporary flexible working arrangements.
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