Working parents

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Now you are pregnant

Read our advice on your rights as a pregnant woman, including responsibilities, time off for ante-natal appointments and sickness during pregnancy.

 

  • Health and safety at work

    It is the employer’s responsibility to carry out a risk assessment of an employee’s working conditions where they are pregnant, have recently given birth or are breastfeeding. Where it is found, or a medical practitioner considers, that an employee or her child would be at risk were she to continue with her normal duties, the employer should provide suitable alternative work for which the employee will receive her normal rate of pay.

    Where it is considered that an employee or her child would be at risk were she to continue doing one particular area of work (for example, on call) if she continues to do her other normal duties and no alternative work is available to cover the part of the job that puts the employee and child at risk, the employee will not be expected to continue that part of her work and will still continue to receive her normal rate of pay.

    It will be the trust’s responsibility to arrange locum cover where the employee is not able to undertake her on-call duties. Where it is considered that the employee or the child would be at risk were she to continue with her post as a whole and it is not reasonably practicable to offer suitable alternative work, the employee should be suspended on full pay.

    These provisions will also apply to an employee who is breastfeeding if it is found that her normal duties would prevent her from successfully breastfeeding her child.
  • Going to antenatal appointments

    All pregnant employees are entitled to time off for the purposes of antenatal care.

    This is not restricted to medical examinations and can include relaxation classes and parent craft classes, as long as these are advised by a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered health visitor.

    Employees should continue to receive their normal pay during the period of time off.

    It is unlawful to dismiss an employee, or select her for redundancy in preference to other comparable employees solely or mainly because she has sought to assert her statutory right to time off for antenatal care.
  • What if I am unwell?

    NHS-employed doctors

    Where an employee is off sick with a pregnancy related illness during the last four weeks before the expected week of childbirth, maternity leave will normally start at the beginning of the fourth week before the expected week of childbirth, or the beginning of the next week after the employee last worked, whichever is the later.

    Absence prior to the last four weeks before the EWC, supported by a medical statement of incapacity for work or a self certificate, shall be treated as sick leave in accordance with normal sick leave provisions.

    Odd days of pregnancy related illness during this period may be disregarded if the employee wishes to continue working until the maternity leave start date previously notified to the employer.

    Where sickness absence is unrelated to pregnancy the normal sickness provisions will apply up until the date notified for the start of maternity leave.

    Where illness occurs following the date the employee was due to return to work, normal sick leave provisions will apply as necessary.

     

    Doctors not covered by the NHS scheme

    Where an employee is sick with an illness that is not pregnancy-related the normal sickness provisions will apply up until the date notified for the start of maternity leave.

    Where the illness is pregnancy-related and occurs after the beginning of the fourth week before the expected week of childbirth, SMP or the MA will start automatically on the day after the first day she is absent from work because of a pregnancy related illness.

    Odd days of pregnancy related illness may be disregarded at the employer’s discretion.

  • What if something happens to my baby?

    Where an employee’s baby is born alive prematurely there will be an entitlement to the same amount of maternity leave and pay as if the baby was born at full term.

    If the birth took place before the eleventh week before the EWC and the employee has worked during the actual week of childbirth, maternity leave will start on the first day of the employee’s absence.

    Where the baby is born before the eleventh week before the EWC, and the employee has been absent from work on certified sickness absence during the actual week of childbirth, maternity leave will start the day after the day of birth.

    Where the baby is born before the eleventh week before the EWC and the baby is in hospital the employee may split her maternity leave entitlement, taking a minimum period of two weeks’ leave immediately after childbirth and the rest of the leave following the baby’s discharge from hospital.

     

    Stillbirth

    Where an employee’s baby is stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy the employee will be entitled to the same amount of maternity leave and pay as if her baby was born alive.

     

    Miscarriage

    Where an employee has a miscarriage before the 25th week of pregnancy, normal sick leave provisions will apply as necessary.

  • Starting maternity leave

    Maternity leave may begin at any time between the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and the expected week of childbirth, provided that the required notice is given.

    If an employee wishes to return to work before the expected return date they need to give 28 days’ notice.  There is no requirement to give notice where an employee intends to return to work at the end of the full maternity leave period.

  • Keeping in touch days

    Since 1 April, 2007 the NHS Scheme has been amended to include reference to ’keeping in touch days’ which were introduced under legislation which contained improvements to statutory rights (see Doctors not covered by the NHS scheme and Keeping in touch).


    What are KIT days?

    KIT days allow employees to work up to 10 keeping in touch days during their maternity or adoption leave without bringing the leave period to an end. 

    For doctors, they can be a positive way to keep up-to-date with developments in their specialty, department or with their employer while they are away. 

    The NHS Scheme states that to facilitate the process of keeping in touch ‘it is important that the employer and employee have early discussion to plan and make arrangements for keeping in touch (KIT) days before the employee’s maternity leave takes place’. For doctors not covered by the NHS Scheme, they will be covered by whatever contractual maternity leave scheme exists within their employment.

    Keeping in touch days are voluntary. Both employee and employer need to agree to them. You cannot be forced to work a KIT day and you must not be treated unfairly for refusing.  If you have arranged to work a KIT/SPLIT day but you are unable to do so because of sickness or childcare difficulties your employer should not penalise you.

     

    What type of work can be done on KIT days?

    KIT days can cover any work activities. They can be used to attend a conference or team meeting, or to participate in training or development activities. The type of work you will do on a KIT day should be mutually agreed with your employer before you go into work.   

     

    When can KIT days be worked? 

    An employee cannot work during the two weeks of compulsory maternity leave immediately after childbirth. KIT days can be worked any time after this, up to the end of the maternity/adoption leave period. Any KIT days worked do not extend the maternity/adoption leave period. 

    KIT days can be consecutive or non-consecutive. 

    Any work done, even if it is just a few hours, will count as one whole KIT day. 

     

    How much will I get paid for KIT days? 

    There is nothing in legislation which sets out how KIT days should be paid. It is to be agreed between the employer and employee. 

    The NHS Scheme provides for employees to be paid at their basic daily rate for the hours worked less appropriate maternity leave payment for KIT days worked. 
    It is advisable to agree with your employer in advance in writing how much you will be paid for working a KIT day to avoid any confusion.

     

    What if I’m breastfeeding when I’m asked to work a KIT day? 

    If an employee is breastfeeding, the employer must carry out a risk assessment and ensure facilities are provided in line with the standard health and safety provisions that govern pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers at work. More information about breastfeeding 

    What about help with childcare so I can work a KIT day?

    Under the NHS scheme, employers are encouraged to consider the scope for reimbursement of reasonable childcare costs or the provision of childcare facilities to enable employees to take up the opportunity to work KIT days, however this is not mandatory

    Shared parental leave in touch (SPLIT) days 

    Couples who have taken SPL (shared parental leave) are also entitled to work, without bringing their leave to an end.  Each parent taking SPL can work up to 20 ‘shared parental leave in touch’ (or SPLIT) days while on SPL without their statutory leave or pay being affected. These days are in addition to the 10 KIT days available during the maternity or adoption leave period. For example, if a mother or adopter, formally ends her maternity leave and goes onto shared parental leave, she is entitled to up to 20 further days –her partner is also entitled to 20 SPLIT days. 

    There is no provision for payment for SPLIT days. But the principles outlined above for payment of KIT days under NHS terms and conditions are likely to be influential. 

    Many employers have additional policies setting out the arrangements for employees taking KIT or SPLIT days. Your employer’s HR department will have the details of this.

    For more information on SPLIT days see ‘What is shared parental leave?’ 

    Where an employee does not satisfy the qualifying conditions for the NHS Scheme she may be entitled to statutory maternity pay or the maternity allowance (see Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance ). All employees have a right to take 52 weeks of maternity leave whether they return to NHS employment or not.

  • What should my employer be doing to ensure the rules are followed?

    Following the changes to the NHS Scheme employers now have a greater responsibility for ensuring that everything is dealt with properly.

    Following discussions with the employee they should confirm the following in writing: 

    • the employee’s paid and unpaid leave entitlements, either NHS Scheme or statutory
    • unless an earlier return date has been given by the employee, her expected return date based on 52 weeks’ paid and unpaid leave entitlement under the NHS Scheme; and
    • the length of any period of accrued annual leave which has been agreed may be taken following the end of the formal maternity leave period
    • the need for the employee to give at least 28 days’ notice if she wishes to return to work before the expected return date.

    Before the employee goes on her maternity leave, agreement should be reached with the employer on any voluntary arrangements for keeping in touch during the maternity leave period including:
    • any voluntary arrangements to help her keep in touch with developments at work and, nearer the time of her return, to help facilitate her return to work
    • keeping in touch with any developments that may affect her intended date of return.