Leaving aside the global financial problems for a moment, this week (5th October to be precise) saw some important amendments to maternity leave regulations. If there is one topic that is guaranteed to bring me out in a cold sweat, it is maternity leave, with all its manifold time limits and subtle differences depending on whether the woman is on Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) (for the first 26 weeks) or Additional Maternity Leave (AML) (the second 26 weeks). From the 5th it all became a bit simpler when the differences between the two periods of maternity leave were removed for women whose babies were born after that date. Prior to that date a woman on OML was entitled to all the terms and conditions of employment, like sick pay and pension contributions that she would have received had she been at work. Her contract was only varied in respect of salary, with her entitlement being covered either by her employer’s maternity pay policy (if there was one) or Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)*. By way of contrast, a woman on AML before the 5th had none of those rights, save for the protection provided by the sex discrimination legislation – the right to return to her old job, to receive proper notice and the employer had a duty to uphold the implied term of trust and confidence and some other technical matters, but no right to receive pension contributions.
That has now changed and the legal position of a woman on AML is brought into line with a woman on OML. In particular an employer must continue pension contributions for women on AML.
There is also no longer the need for a woman to have worked for an employer for 26 weeks before she can acquire the right to take AML; a woman who knows she is pregnant when she starts a new job can claim AML after her OML has finished.
* By the way SMP pays 90% of average earnings for the first six weeks and then £117.18 for the next 33 weeks
For more information on the these matters have a look at the government’s website – www.direct.gov.uk/en/parents – it’s got a lot of useful stuff on it, including personalised calculators.
This article will appear in the “Docklands” and “Peninsula” newspapers week commencing 13th October 2008.