As an employee, it is crucial to be aware of your rights, particularly when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. The UK has a robust legal framework in place to protect the rights of working parents, ensuring a healthy work-life balance. In this blog, we will explore the key aspects of maternity and paternity rights, providing you with the information you need to navigate this important phase of your life.
One of the most significant milestones in a woman’s life is becoming a mother. To ensure the well-being of both mother and child, the UK law grants expectant mothers a range of maternity rights. These rights include:
1.1 Statutory Maternity Leave:
Pregnant employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, regardless of their length of service. This comprises 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave.
1.2 Statutory Maternity Pay:
Eligible employees can receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks. The first six weeks are paid at 90% of the average weekly earnings, while the remaining 33 weeks are paid at the SMP rate set by the government.
1.3 Flexible Working Arrangements:
Upon returning from maternity leave, employees have the right to request flexible working arrangements to balance work and family commitments. Employers must give genuine consideration to such requests, keeping in mind the best interests of both parties.
Whilst there are strategies in place to ensure working mothers receive the maternity leave, allowance and support they need, often, new mothers will still feel the need to return to work early, either out of financial necessity, or because they feel they will be discriminated against if they don’t go back to work as quickly as possible. New and expectant mothers are a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This protection begins when a mother becomes pregnant (and their employer becomes aware) and lasts until they return to work.
Recognising the importance of fathers in the upbringing of children, the UK has introduced paternity rights that allow fathers to be more involved. Here are some key aspects of paternity rights:
2.1 Ordinary Paternity Leave:
New fathers can take up to two weeks of Ordinary Paternity Leave (OPL), enabling them to support their partners and bond with their newborns. This leave must be taken within 56 days of the child’s birth.
2.2 Statutory Paternity Pay:
During the OPL period, eligible fathers are entitled to receive Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP). This payment is calculated at the SPP rate set by the government or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
2.3 Shared Parental Leave:
To promote shared parenting, eligible parents can opt for Shared Parental Leave (SPL). This allows them to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of statutory shared parental pay.
Unfortunately, fathers are not extended the same rights for paternity as a mother is for maternity – although there is a growing number of charities and voices that are trying to rectify this. Traditionally, fathers have gone back to work straight away, leaving new mothers at home to transition into parenthood. This can often mean fathers are not as close to their children as mothers, and mothers don’t receive as much support.
While maternity and paternity rights offer valuable support, it is essential to understand the associated employment rights and protections:
3.1 Protection Against Discrimination:
Employers must not discriminate against employees based on their pregnancy, childbirth, or maternity/paternity leave. This includes protection against unfair treatment, dismissal, and disadvantageous actions.
3.2 Redundancy Protection:
Employees on maternity or paternity leave have additional protection against redundancy. If redundancies occur, employers must offer suitable alternative employment if available.
3.3 Keeping in Touch (KIT) and Shared Parental Leave in Touch (SPLIT) Days:
Employees on maternity or paternity leave have the right to work for up to ten Keeping in Touch (KIT) or Shared Parental Leave in Touch (SPLIT) days without affecting their leave or pay entitlements.
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Maternity and paternity rights play a vital role in ensuring the well-being of working parents and their children. Familiarising yourself with these rights is crucial to make informed decisions and maintain a healthy work-life balance. If you require further advice or assistance regarding your employment rights, consult an experienced employment solicitor who can guide you through the legal intricacies and help protect your rights as an employee.
Remember, being aware of your rights empowers you to make the best choices for yourself, your family, and your career. Maternity and paternity should be cherished moments in your life, and the UK employment law is there to support you every step of the way.
If you feel you have been discriminated against whilst pregnant or since having your baby, get in touch with Catherine Herries-Smith today to see how we can support you during this new period of your life.
Address:Catherine Herries-Smith SolicitorJubilee House, Globe Park, Third Ave, Marlow SL7 1EY