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What are the issues to be considered when meeting with an employee due to go on maternity leave?

13 October 2021

Paperwork. Confirm that both parties have received/issued and understood all the necessary paperwork, including MATB1, notification of dates on which maternity leave starts and ends, and confirmation of SMP/contractual maternity pay.

Workload and handover. Discuss employee's workload and the handover process. If maternity cover has been recruited is there going to be an overlap between the two employees for handover purposes? If it has been decided no specific maternity cover is required, how is the work that needs to be covered being split up? Has the employee met with any members of staff who will be taking on work from her? Does the employee need to make handover notes? Has her line manager been updated on the status of her workload and all necessary arrangements made?

Annual leave (current holiday year). Establish whether the employee has any annual leave left for the current holiday year. If she does, does she wish to take it prior to commencing maternity leave? If she does not wish to take all her annual leave before starting OML how will the employee's entitlement be dealt with?

Annual leave (accrual during maternity leave). It is usually advisable to deal with holiday accrued prior to maternity leave and during maternity leave separately so as to avoid any confusion if the employee changes the amount of maternity leave she takes. Establish what the employee wishes to do concerning holiday which will accrue in the holiday year that commences prior to her return from maternity leave. Does she wish to take this holiday before returning to work from maternity leave, so as to extend her period of leave?

Status of employment contract and benefits. Outline the status of the employee's contract of employment during maternity leave, and her rights and obligations towards the employer. This will include explaining how any bonuses or pay rises which become due during the maternity leave period will be calculated, as well as explaining arrangements for payment of pension contributions. If the employee makes her own pension contributions she should be reminded that she may wish to top these up in order to maintain the same level of contributions when her pay reduces and/or expires. Outline the status of any other contractual entitlements such as use of a company car, gym membership and childcare vouchers.

Keeping in contact. Establish the employee's preferred method of contact during maternity leave (such as via post or personal email address) and whether she wishes to receive any regular external or internal publications while she is away. For example, copies of industry publications, internal company vacancy lists, company newsletters or bulletins, invitations to work social events.

Keeping-in-touch (KIT) days. Explain any policy that the employer may have regarding the use of KIT days and in particular whether (and, if so, how much) is paid for them. Discuss any specific opportunities which may be coming up and/or which may be of use or interest to the employee. For example, team or company meetings or away days, conferences, training sessions, or specific client work.

Shared parental leave. Advise the employee of the availability of shared parental leave if she and her partner meet the eligibility requirements, and ask whether she is considering opting into that scheme (although note that nothing she says at this stage will be binding).

Arrangements for return to work. Advise that the employer will be in touch shortly before the employee is due to return to work to invite them to have a discussion (whether in person or by telephone) about the arrangements for her return to work. This may include updating the employee on any changes that may have occurred to working arrangements or duties during her absence as well as discussing any necessary refresher training that the employee might require.

Flexible working. Explain how the employer deals with requests for flexible or part-time working. The employee should be aware that if she wishes to make any request she will need to do so well in advance of her return to work (say, by at least two months) if she wishes any new arrangement to take effect immediately on her return.

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