Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash
The prospect of a pregnant employee in a small business can cause some business owners to break out in a cold sweat, especially if the business employs both prospective parents. So what can you do as a small business owner to support your staff, and help yourself?
Maternity Leave Ain’t What It Used to Be
The first thing that you need to know is that you may no longer be writing a straightforward Maternity Leave policy. In today’s ever changing, modern society you have to be prepared for a range of circumstances that could affect your business.
Have you factored into your policies Shared Parental Leave, or Adoption Leave? Having policies in place will limit any possible complications and ensure everyone understands what is expected of them. Being prepared for these circumstances ensures that you are recognised as a business that takes work/life balance seriously, and who wouldn’t want to work for a business like that?
Honesty Is the Best Policy
To plan for long term absence accordingly you need as much information as possible, as soon as possible. This will only happen if you have created a work environment in which all employees feel able to talk to you. If you want the parental leave process to be a smooth one, then create a culture in which you can have honest conversation with the staff involved and the team that they are a part of.
By keeping everyone in the loop, everyone knows where they stand, and the employee in question feels like a valuable member of the team, rather than an inconvenience. Likewise when the time comes, the employee will feel much more comfortable and confident returning to work, and that can only be a good thing for you and your business.
What Are Your Obligations
However, honest conversations can’t happen if you don’t have clear policies in place. Employees need to know what to expect from you, once they announce their news. The statutory obligations mean that your employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity or adoption leave, and it can start 11 weeks before the expected date of childbirth or at the point of matching. Remember new mothers must take two weeks’ leave immediately after the child is born.
For more details on company requirements, check out our blog post: Proactively Managing Maternity Leave in a Small Business
It is important to be aware that any parental leave policy must take into account Adoption Leave. The rights of an employee who adopts a child are similar to this for maternity leave and maternity pay. It is worth noting that, where a couple adopt a child, only one can claim adoption leave and pay. The other can claim paternity leave and paternity pay, regardless of gender, provided he or she qualifies.
Remember, fathers and adoptive parents have further rights to unpaid leave. This includes the right of fathers, partners and parents-to-be to take unpaid time off work to attend up to two ante-natal appointments.
Shared Parental Leave
This is the relatively new kid on the block. Despite traditional maternity leave, in which the mother takes the time off all in go, still being the most popular option, you must, if you want to avoid any complications further down the line, be aware of Shared Parental Leave.
This is a much more flexible option for prospective parents, allowing the leave to be split between both parents. The number of people choosing this option is still relatively low, but it is a policy that the government has been actively encouraging, and if, you employ both parents, you may want to check the details of your policies.
Stay Ahead of the Competition
Finally, consider the systems you have in place to manage long term absences such as maternity, adoption and shared parental leave. Now is the time to make sure you have software in place that can help you manage the administrative details that come with these differing types of leave. More importantly, you need systems and software in place that minimise the cost of this administration and reduces any potential disruption, thus avoiding a negative impact on production levels, and the future of your long term business plans.