Thinking of having a baby? Our hints and tips can help you to prepare.
If you own a small business, it’s likely every member of staff has responsibilities, it’s understandable that a pregnancy announcement could cause concerns. With careful and long-term planning, such a scenario need not cause any problems, leaving you instead to get on with the essential task of planning the office baby shower.
Eligible employees are able to take maternity leave of up to 52 weeks (one year). The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, with the subsequent 26 weeks called ‘Additional Maternity Leave’.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) can be paid for up to 39 weeks. Generally, this will consist of the employee being paid 90% (at least) of their average weekly earnings (before tax), with the remaining 33 weeks to be either £140.98 or 90% of average weekly earnings – whichever is lower.
If someone makes the decision to take paternity leave, they may be eligible for shared parental leave or paid paternity leave. Leave must be taken in one go, cannot start before the birth, and must end within 56 days of the birth. The employee also needs to inform the employer of their intentions 28 days prior to taking leave.
The best way to ensure you’re able to hire someone capable of carrying out the tasks required of them is to start the recruiting process early. Be fully aware of what you will need them to do and, if possible, have them come in to shadow the employee that is going on leave, even if only for a couple of days.
Communication is absolutely key throughout, both with the individual going on leave, and the person set to replace them. It can be difficult to plan cover well in advance, as you won't know exactly when their assistance will be required, and for how long you’ll need their services, but the earlier it can be done, the better for everyone.
Rather than take on someone as cover for the person on leave, you may decide to ask current employees to carry out elements of the role. It is vitally important that, should you consider this option, employees are given the opportunity to voice their opinion. They may have concerns about having additional work handed to them, or might feel that they don’t have the necessary skills. If you end up giving members of staff work that they can’t do, then they may end up looking for employment elsewhere.
If the individual on leave eventually decides they wish to return to work, you need to be prepared to give them time to settle back in. They will have been away from full-time work for an extended period, and so will need to acclimatise and get up to speed. It’s likely that some elements of your business will have changed, so be patient and provide advice and support when necessary.
There’s a lot of information available online when it comes to maternity and paternity leave, but it can often be worth seeking professional advice. This can be from a legal or business consultant and can help you to get a firm grasp of the correct way to proceed. There can be significant legal consequences should you get it wrong.