As Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge prepare for the arrival of their first baby and my wife waits patiently for the birth of our second baby (due last Monday), it seems fitting to tackle a maternity issue which has caused considerable debate; how much contact, if any, can employers make in relation to an employee on maternity leave?
This guide provides advice on getting this delicate balance right without stepping outside of the legal framework.
1. The legal framework – The Maternity Leave Regulations state that employers may make reasonable contact with employees on maternity leave. Reasonable contact will vary depending on the circumstances and the individual concerned.
2. Pre-maternity leave meeting – Arranging this meeting will give you the opportunity to discuss and agree the means, frequency and type of contact. These parameters will vary according to individual requirements and may be subject to change when the baby arrives.
3. Determining when they will return to work – In April 2003, the statutory right for employers to ask employees to confirm if they intended to return to work was removed. With this in mind, it is advisable to contact employees towards the end of their maternity leave to make arrangements for their return.
4. Returning to work early – If an employee intends to return to work before the end of their maternity leave, she must give at least eight weeks’ notice. She is only obliged to do this if the employer has already notified her of the date that the maternity leave will end within 28 days of date that she gave notice of when she intended to commence her maternity leave.
5. Resignation – If an employee decided not to return to work, she must resign in the normal way by giving notice as per her employment contract. Notice can run whilst being on maternity leave.
It’s a worthwhile investment of your time to discuss contact arrangements with employees before they commence their maternity leave. In many cases, this will help them to feel part of the team and will make the transition to return to work far easier for both parties.
By Bruce Ramshaw