I am working on site and have just found out that I am pregnant. Should I tell my head and what should they do?
We advise that you email your head about your pregnancy immediately. The government advises pregnant women to continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household. Employers are responsible for undertaking health and safety risk assessments. Your head should consider the risks the current circumstances pose to you and your baby during your pregnancy. Ask your head to discuss with you what arrangements can be made for you to work from home, especially if you are over 28 weeks pregnant. If the workplace is not assessed to be safe for you and working from home is not possible, your head should consider medically suspend you on full pay and on the same terms and conditions. Contact AdviceLine@neu.org.uk if you need further advice.
Should furlough leave affect my maternity pay?
If you are due to start maternity leave, you retain your right to maternity leave and any pay. Entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) depends on your average earnings in the 8 weeks/2 months before the qualifying week, i.e. your 25th week of pregnancy. On 25 April, the government passed a new law so that where a woman is on furlough during that 8 weeks and her SMP pay is reduced as a result, her normal weekly earnings will be calculated based on the pay she would have received if she were not furloughed.
The regulations cover maternity allowance, statutory paternity pay, statutory adoption pay, statutory shared parental pay and statutory parental bereavement pay too, so employees are not disadvantaged in relation to these statutory payments as a result of their being furloughed.
I am returning from maternity leave and immediately working from home; will this count towards the 13 weeks I’m required to complete under my contractual maternity scheme?
Yes, a return to work from maternity leave, albeit working from home, ends your maternity leave and counts towards the 13 weeks’ return to work.
If you’re not able to complete the 13 weeks for a reason beyond your control, your employer should exercise its discretion; it should treat you as having returned for the requisite period and it should not attempt to claw back your maternity pay. You should contact Adviceline@neu.org.uk if your employer does threaten to claw back your maternity pay.
What about notifying my return from maternity leave? Can I return from maternity leave if the school is closed due to a local lockdown?
If you are due to return from maternity leave, you should notify your employer as normal using the arrangements that your employer has put in place during the school closure period. You can then formally return from maternity leave while the school is closed.
My partner is able to look after our baby and I would like to end my maternity leave early so that I can help out during the crisis. Can I do this?
Yes, it is possible to return to work early from maternity leave if it is safe to do so. You must have taken two weeks compulsory maternity leave. To return early you will need to give the appropriate notice. The statutory notice period is eight weeks. Your contract might allow you to give shorter notice: for example, only 21 days is needed under the Burgundy Book. Be aware that once your maternity leave has ended by your giving early notice, it is not possible to restart it.
I have no one to look after my children, can I bring them to school with me?
Schools are open from September, so your children should be at their usual school or nursery. If they are closed, you can ask for your children to be cared for at your school if there is no other option available to you. Check that its’ insurance will cover any accident to your child at the school. If your school cannot look after your children, particularly if you have a pre-nursery child, inform your employer that you are not able to attend work due to your caring responsibilities but that you are willing and able to work from home. You should continue to be paid. See the NEU guidance on childcare during the crisis.
My employer has told me to start my maternity leave at 28 weeks because women in their third trimester should take particular care around social distancing. What are my rights?
Your employer cannot force you to start your maternity leave early. Maternity leave can be triggered early if your baby is born early, if you give notice to start maternity leave early, or if you are absent for a pregnancy related reason in the last four weeks of your pregnancy. Week 28 isn’t in the last four weeks of your pregnancy. The NEU continues to advise that pregnant women should not be in school if a risk assessment does not show that it is safe to be. If your employer has concluded that it is not safe for you and your baby to be in school, and if you cannot work from home, your employer is obliged to medically suspend you on full pay until either your maternity leave is triggered (as above) or until it is safe for you to return to work.