Employment and Maternity Pay Questions Answered

Make sure you know your rights with advice from our employment expert Joanna Robson

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Joanna Robson is a legal expert specialising in employment and maternity law. Here she answers some common work related questions, whether you are a mum-to-be, about to return or already a mum who works:

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Q. How do I qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay?

A:  You’re entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave. Whether you’re eligible for SMP, however, depends on a number of factors, including length of service and average earnings during the ‘qualifying period’. This runs for eight weeks, leading up to your 25th week of pregnancy. You need to earn more than the national insurance contribution earning threshold in order to qualify for SMP. 

If you are eligible, your employer will pay you SMP for up to 39 weeks, which comprises six weeks at 90% of your salary, followed by 33 weeks at the prescribed rate, currently £124.88. It’s also worth checking your employment contract to see if you’re entitled to any contractual maternity pay in addition to your SMP.

Q: Will I have to pay back my statutory maternity pay if I don’t go back to work after maternity leave?

A: No, if you decide not to go back to work you won’t have to pay back your statutory maternity pay. However, if you get any contractual maternity pay, you’ll need to check your employment contract to see if you have to pay it back.

Q: While pregnant should I be expected to be doing a lot of heavy lifting at work without any help?

A: If your job involves heavy lifting this should be removed immediately and sustained with lighter duties. If there are no such tasks available your employer must suspend you on full pay on medical grounds.

Q: I have two jobs can I continue my second job while getting maternity pay from my main employer?

A: If you receive wages or salary from your second employer you stop being entitled to statutory maternity pay.

Q: What is a KIT day?

Whilst on maternity leave you may be entitled to 10 KIT (Keep in touch) days which are intended to help you ‘keep in touch’ with your workplace and allow you to do some work during your Maternity Pay Period without affecting your SMP. For any KIT days that you work under your contract of service for the employer paying you SMP, your employer must pay you the SMP due for that week as a minimum. Any contractual payment for the work done as a KIT day, will depend on the agreement between you and your employer.

Q: Can I claim childcare vouchers while on maternity leave?

A: Childcare vouchers generally form part of a ‘salary sacrifice scheme’ and are defined as ‘contractual non-cash benefits’ in your contract. Your SMP will be worked out on the reduced contractual pay that you receive, if you have such a scheme. Therefore, childcare vouchers should continue to be provided by your employer throughout your maternity leave.

Q: When do I have to tell my boss that I am pregnant?

A, The sooner you tell them the better as they can check any health and safety risks at work, also you’ll be eligible for pregnant rights as soon as you tell them. But, you are under no obligation to tell your employer until the first day of your 25th week of pregnancy.

Q. Am I allowed to take time off for pregnancy related appointments? 

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A, You’re entitled to paid time off for all antenatal appointments, including doctor, midwife, hospital and physio appointments. You may also be entitled to paid time off for various ‘parentcraft’ classes, if you’ve been advised to attend them by your GP or midwife. Your employer should not require you to make up any time lost as a result of antenatal appointments

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