In 2015 joint parental leave was introduced. A new mother can now share her maternity leave with her partner. While this is brilliant for families to be given this option and flexibility it can make things more difficult for employers, especially small businesses.
I have recently come back from maternity leave, in fact it was my second maternity leave in 3 years which consisted of a staged return back both times and resulted in me now working part time, both leaves were smooth transitions because my company took time to think about my leave and we were all open, honest and communicated throughout.
How can you manage parental leave?
I can’t stress enough that open communication is paramount. Between the employer, the parent to be and the team they work in as this keeps everyone in the loop. For a successful maternity/paternity transition keeping open conversation going is key.
All pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for ante-natal care and can take 52 weeks statutory maternity leave. This leave can begin 11 weeks before mum’s due date. New mums are required to take a minimum of 2 weeks maternity leave. After this first 2 weeks either parent can take the leave following the introduction of shared parental leave. No more than 12 months leave in total can be taken between the mother and her partner and only 9 months of the leave will be paid. Any employee must give 8 weeks’ notice of any leave and shared parental leave can be taken in up to 3 separate blocks.
A good idea is to have a parental leave policy written up that you can give to your employee when they inform you they are going to be a parent. You also need to decide if you are going to pay statutory pay or enhanced pay. The latter can seem painful especially for small companies but it could mean bringing key staff back sooner so the investment could be worth making.
How do you deal with your employee’s absence?
This can be tricky, especially in small firms where a single person can be more fundamental to the business. However this can be a great chance for less experience colleagues to step up and assume more responsibility. If this happens though it’s a good idea to arrange regular check in’s to make sure other workers are not over-burdened. Arranging regular check in’s with a team that has a member off on parental leave is fundamental so employees can raise concerns and adjustments can be made if necessary.
If you don’t have the resource to cover the work within your business you can advertise for someone to cover the role, however you must be clear that this is a maternity cover and is a fixed term post as the new parent is entitled to return to their old post.
Return to work
Arrange a conversation with your employee to find out their needs. Often employers don’t offer this and employees don’t ask for it because they don’t want to be a further burden on their employer. A small firm may not have ‘re-joining’ initiatives in place like big companies do however if you do have fewer employees then you should have a better chance at ensuring your returning staff are comfortable and never feel overwhelmed. Again it can’t be stressed enough that open and honest communication will make everything easier.
Employee wants to return part time
When an employee requests to come back part time then you are obliged to consider this request. If you decide that you cannot grant this request then you must give the employee a good business decision not to and your reasons have to be justified.
If you do turn down a request for part time work then the employee could potentially claim against you in an employment tribunal on grounds you have failed to comply with the process or that your reasons are not a permitted business reason.
Flexible working and work life balance are key influencers in employee’s decisions on remaining with an employer. Over 3,000 professionals in the UK were quizzed by the workspace solutions provider on the importance of flexibility for today’s workers. More than nine out of 10 respondents said that, given a choice of two similar jobs, they would choose the one that offered more flexible working options. This was backed up by the survey findings, with almost one-third of respondents (32%) stating that they would have stayed longer in their previous jobs if greater flexibility had been offered. There is also the current business climate to consider. The economic uncertainty requires business to be more agile and nimble so operating with a fluid and flexible workforce, using available workspace, makes real commercial sense.
Put simply, if your businesses is not thinking flexibly then you risk a talent drain.
A massive percentage of firms will have someone going on parental leave at some point, don’t let your talented staff go elsewhere because you haven’t considered all the options and you haven’t supported your staff though this time in their life.
What if it’s you?
What if it’s you yourself a partner, manager or business owner needing parental leave? A good idea is to make a list of every task and process that you are involved in and look at your team and designate tasks, breaking down tasks will allow you to find the appropriate person for each task. You could then hold a day where you brief everyone on their roles and let your clients know and make any necessary introductions in advance. If you are going off on leave then ensure you give yourself enough time to work all this out, physically before I went on maternity leave I felt like I had a hangover for 8 months so allowing extra time for tasks was key, both of my children made surprise early appearances too so have tasks allocated as early as you can then if needed colleagues can pick up at short notice. Be open with your employer and let them know what your plans are as far in advance as you can, if you help them out then in turn they will look after you as best they can. After all, everybody loves a new baby!
If your cashier, accountant or payroll administrator is going on leave then please do not hesitate to get in touch and find out how we can help you.
For more information on maternity/paternity and shared parental leave please visit:
https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/overview – Maternity leave
https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1362 – Shared parental leave
https://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1806 – Paternity leave
Marketing & Communications Manager at The Cashroom Ltd
The Cashroom Ltd provides this material for informational purposes only and specific advice should be sought. The above information is general and is not intended to be legal advice. Nothing herein should be relied upon or used without consulting a lawyer to consider your specific circumstances, possible changes to applicable laws, rules and regulations and other legal issues.