As an employer, it can feel overwhelming to manage all aspects of maternity leave – especially if you’re not sure where to start. Not only do you want to support your employee during this time, but also ensure that your business and team remain productive throughout the process.
At its core, managing maternity leave is about creating a balance between accommodating the needs of new mothers while avoiding disruption to operations or morale in the office.
To achieve this delicate balance with maximum success, there are a few key considerations that HR leaders must keep in mind when drafting policies or discussing employees’ rights and obligations.
In this blog, we will cover everything from understanding maternity policy to best practices for handovers and workload.
Understanding Maternity Policy
The first step in managing maternity leave is to have a clear understanding of your company’s maternity policy and the legal requirements set out by the government.
In the UK, eligible employees can take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. The first 26 weeks are known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, and the last 26 weeks as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’. – Gov.uk
During this time, the employee is entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) or maternity allowance (MA) from the government, and may be entitled to additional pay or benefits from their employer depending on the company’s policy.
To acquire additional information on maternity pay for an employee, you can take advantage of the Government SMP calculator.
Handovers and Workload
To ensure a smooth transition for the employee on maternity leave, it’s important to plan ahead and delegate tasks and responsibilities to other members of the team.
It’s critical to bear in mind the expectant mother will have lots on their mind – not only the imminent arrival of her new baby, the potential worry and anxiety of putting her career on hold and allowing someone else to take temporary charge of her tasks and responsibilities – but also mixed her emotions resulting from pregnancy hormones.
You will know your employee and what approach will work best, but don’t forget about involving them in creating the transition plan – after all who else knows their role and workload better? It might also help to alleviate some of her concerns and anxieties about the uncertainties ahead.
A smooth transition will involve creating a detailed handover plan, identifying a point of contact for the employee to stay in touch with during their leave, and ensuring that any necessary training or support is provided to the temporary replacement or team members taking on extra responsibilities.
It is also important to manage the workload of those taking on additional tasks to ensure they are not overburdened and retain an effective balance between workplace productivity and employee satisfaction.
Offer Keeping In Touch (KIT) days
Although employees on maternity leave are entitled to disconnect from work during this time, it’s important to maintain regular communication to keep them informed of any updates or changes within the company.
This can involve scheduling regular ‘KIT’ catch-up meetings or phone calls to discuss the employee’s plans for returning to work, providing updates on any changes or developments within the company and discussing any arrangements that may need to be made to accommodate the employee’s return.
By keeping in touch during this period, you can maintain a positive relationship with the employee and ensure that any transition back to work is as smooth and seamless as possible, since they haven’t fully detached themselves from their working life.
Flexible Working Arrangements
As an employer, you are required to consider any requests for flexible working arrangements from employees returning from maternity leave. This can include flexible hours, part-time working, or working from home, depending on the needs of the employee and the requirements of the business.
It’s important to approach these requests with an open mind and be willing to make reasonable accommodations to support the employee’s return to work.
Managing maternity leave requires a delicate balance between supporting the employee’s needs and ensuring smooth operations in the workplace.
To strike this balance, HR leaders should ensure they have a thorough understanding of the company’s maternity policy, plan ahead for the handover process and workload delegation and maintain regular communication with their employees on leave.
By following these guidelines, you can support your employees through their maternity leave journey while maintaining a healthy balance between workplace productivity and employee satisfaction.