Maternity leave and pay
Eligibility for Maternity Leave
15.1 Every pregnant employee is entitled to 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave. This right applies regardless of an employee’s length of service.
15.2 An employee who, at the beginning of the 14th week before the expected week of childbirth, has completed 26 weeks’ continuous employment is also entitled to a further 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave, which begins at the end of the ordinary maternity leave.
Eligibility for Maternity Pay
15.3 An employee working full time or part time will be entitled to paid and unpaid maternity leave under the contractual maternity pay scheme if:
- she has 12 months’ continuous service as described in Section 12 at the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth. If she does not have the qualifying period of service she will still be eligible to 26 weeks unpaid Ordinary Maternity Leave and if she has completed 26 weeks service at the beginning of the 14th week before the expected week of childbirth is entitled to 26 weeks unpaid Additional Maternity Leave.
- she notifies her employer in writing before the end of the 15th week before the expected date of childbirth (or if this is not possible, as soon as is reasonably practicable thereafter):
- of her intention to take maternity leave
- of the date she wishes to start her maternity leave
- that she intends to return to work with the Department of Health or Department of Social Care, or another employer as stated in Section 12, for a minimum period of three months after her maternity leave has ended
- provides a MATB1 form from her midwife or GP giving the expected date of childbirth as soon as practical.
Changing the maternity leave start date
15.4 If the employee subsequently wants to change the date from which she wishes her leave to start she should notify her employer at least 28 days beforehand (or, if this is not possible, as soon as is reasonably practicable beforehand).
Confirming maternity leave and pay
15.5 Following discussion with the employee, the employer should confirm in writing:
- the employee’s paid and unpaid leave entitlements under this agreement (or statutory entitlements if the employee does not qualify under this agreement)
- unless an earlier return date has been given by the employee, her expected return date based on her 52 weeks’ paid and unpaid leave entitlement under this agreement
- the length of any period of accrued annual leave which it has been agreed may be taken following the end of the formal maternity leave period
- the need for the employee to give at least 28 days’ notice if she wishes to return to work before the expected return date
Keeping in touch
15.6 Before going on leave, the employer and the employee should also discuss and mutually agree any voluntary arrangements for keeping in touch during the employee’s maternity leave.
Maternity Pay – Paid maternity leave
Amount of pay
15.7 Where an employee intends to return to work the amount of contractual maternity pay receivable is as follows:
- for the first 8 weeks of absence, the employee will receive full pay, less any Maternity Allowance (including any dependants’ allowances) receivable
- for the next 18 weeks, the employee will receive half pay plus any Maternity Allowance (including any dependants’ allowances) receivable, providing the total receivable does not exceed full pay
15.8 By prior agreement with the employer, occupational maternity pay may be paid in a different way, for example a combination of full pay and half pay or a fixed amount spread equally over the maternity leave period. If the employee does not request the above it will be assumed that they wish to receive 8 weeks full and 18 weeks half.
Calculation of maternity pay
15.9 Full pay will be calculated using the average weekly earnings rules used for calculating Maternity Allowance entitlements, subject to the following qualifications:
- i) In the event of a pay award or annual increment being implemented before the paid maternity leave period begins, the maternity pay should be calculated as though the pay award or annual increment had effect throughout the entire Maternity Allowance calculation period. If such a pay award was agreed retrospectively, the maternity pay should be re-calculated on the same basis.
- ii) In the event of a pay award or annual increment being implemented during the paid maternity leave period, the maternity pay due from the date of the pay award or annual increment should be increased accordingly. If such a pay award was agreed retrospectively, the maternity pay should be re-calculated on the same basis.
- iii) In the case of an employee on unpaid sickness absence or on sickness absence attracting half pay during the whole or part of the period used for calculating Maternity Allowance, the average weekly earnings for the period of sick absence shall be calculated on the basis that the employee was receiving full sick pay.
Unpaid contractual maternity leave
15.10 Employees will also be entitled to 26 weeks’ unpaid leave after the paid period ends.
Commencement and duration of leave
15.11 An employee may begin her maternity leave at any time between 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth and the expected week of childbirth provided she gives the required notice
Sickness prior to childbirth
15.12 If an employee is off work ill, or becomes ill, with a pregnancy-related illness during the last 4 weeks before the expected week of childbirth, maternity leave will normally commence at the beginning of the 4th week before the expected week of childbirth or the beginning of the next week after the employee last worked, whichever is the later.
15.13 Absence prior to the last 4 weeks before the expected week of childbirth, supported by a medical statement of incapacity for work, or a self-certificate, shall be treated as sick leave in accordance with normal leave provisions. Odd days of pregnancy-related illness during this period may be disregarded if the employee wishes to continue working until the maternity leave start date previously notified to the employer.
15.14 Where an employee’s baby is born alive prematurely the employee will be entitled to the same amount of maternity leave and pay as if her baby were born at full term.
15.15 Where an employee’s baby is born before the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and the employee has worked during the actual week of childbirth, maternity leave will start on the first day of the employee’s absence.
15.16 Where an employee’s baby is born before the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and the employee has been absent from work on certified sickness absence during the actual week of childbirth, maternity leave will start the day after the day of birth.
15.17 Where an employee’s baby is born before the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and the baby is in hospital, the employee may split her maternity leave entitlement, taking a minimum period of two weeks’ leave immediately after childbirth and the rest of her leave following her baby’s discharge from hospital.
15.18 Where an employee’s baby is still born after the 24th week of pregnancy, the employee will be entitled to the same amount of maternity leave and pay as if her baby was born alive.
15.19 Where an employee has a miscarriage before the 25th week of pregnancy, normal sick leave provisions will apply as necessary.
Health and Safety of employees pre and post birth
15.20 Where an employee is pregnant, has recently given birth or is breastfeeding, the employer should carry out a risk assessment of her working conditions.
If it is found, or a medical practitioner considers, that an employee or her child would be at risk were she to continue with her normal duties the employer should provide suitable alternative work for which the employee will receive her normal rate of pay.
Where it is not reasonably practicable to offer suitable alternative work the employee should be suspended on full pay. 15.21 These provisions also apply to an employee who is breastfeeding if it is found that her normal duties would prevent her from successfully breastfeeding her child.
Return to work
15.22 An employee who intends to return to work at the end of her full maternity leave will not be required to give any further notification to the employer, although if she wishes to return early she must give at least 28 days’ notice.
15.23 An employee has the right to return to her job under her original contract and on no less favourable terms and conditions.
Returning on flexible working arrangements
15.24 If at the end of maternity leave the employee wishes to return to work on different hours, the Departments have a duty to facilitate this wherever possible, with the employee returning to work on different hours in the same job.
If this is not possible the employer must provide written, objectively justifiable reasons for this and the employee should return to the same grade and work of a similar nature and status to that which she held prior to her maternity absence.
If it is agreed that the employee will return to work on a flexible basis, including changed or reduced hours, for an agreed temporary period, this will not affect the employee’s right to return to her job under her original contract at the end of the agreed period.
Sickness following the end of maternity leave
15.25 In the event of illness following the date the employee was due to return to work, normal sick leave provisions will apply as necessary.
Failure to return to work
15.26 If an employee who has notified her employer of her intention to return to work for the Department of Health, or Department of Social Care or a different NHS employer in accordance with the paragraph 15.4 fails to do so within 15 months of the beginning of her maternity leave she will be liable to refund the whole of her maternity pay, less any Maternity Allowance, received. In extreme cases the employer will have the discretion to waive the rights to recovery.
Fixed-term contracts or training contracts
15.27 Employees subject to fixed-term or training contracts which expire after the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and who satisfy the conditions in paragraphs above shall have their contracts extended so as to allow them to receive the 26 weeks’ paid contractual maternity leave set out above.
15.28 Absence on maternity leave (paid and unpaid) up to 52 weeks before a further Department of Health or Department of Social Care appointment shall not constitute a break in service.
15.29 If there is no right of return to be exercised because the contract would have ended if pregnancy and childbirth had not occurred, the repayment provisions set out above will not apply.
15.30 Employees on fixed-term contracts who do not meet the 12 months’ continuous service condition set out above may still be entitled to Maternity Allowance.
Rotational training contracts
15.31 Where an employee is on a planned rotation of appointments within the Department of Health or Department of Social Care or other NHS employers as part of an agreed programme of training, she shall have the right to return to work in the same post or in the next planned post irrespective of whether the contract would otherwise have ended if pregnancy and childbirth had not occurred. In such circumstances the employee’s contract will be extended to enable the practitioner to complete the agreed programme of training.
15.32 During maternity leave (both paid and unpaid) an employee retains all of her contractual rights except remuneration.
15.33 Maternity leave, whether paid or unpaid, shall count as service for annual increments and for the purposes of any service qualification period for additional annual leave.
Accrual of annual leave
15.34 Annual leave will continue to accrue during maternity leave, whether paid or unpaid, provided for by this agreement.
15.35 Where the amount of accrued annual leave would exceed normal carry-over provisions, it may be mutually beneficial to both the employer and employee for the employee to take annual leave before and/or after the formal (paid and unpaid) maternity leave period. The amount of annual leave to be taken in this way, or carried over, should be discussed and agreed between the employee and employer.
15.36 Pension rights and contributions shall be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the NHS (IOM) Superannuation Regulations.
15.37 Pregnant employees have the right to paid time off for antenatal care. Antenatal care may include relaxation and parent-craft classes as well as appointments for antenatal care.
Post-natal care and breastfeeding mothers
15.38 Women who have recently given birth should have paid time off for post-natal care, for example attendance at health clinics.
15.39 Employers are required to provide breast-feeding women with suitable rest facilities. The Health and Safety Executive also encourages employers to provide a healthy and safe environment for women who are breast-feeding with suitable access to a private room to express and store milk.
Employees with less than 12 months’ continuous service
15.41 If an employee does not satisfy the conditions in the paragraph above for occupational maternity pay she may be entitled to Maternity Allowance.
Maternity Allowance will be paid regardless of whether she satisfies the conditions laid out above.
If her earnings are too low for her to qualify for Maternity Allowance, or she does not qualify for another reason, she should be advised to contact her local Social Security Office.
15.42 Employees who fall into the category set out previously but intend to return to Department of Health or Department of Social Care employment will also be entitled to a further period of 26 weeks’ unpaid maternity leave.
15.43 Please also refer to the Section 12 on Continuous service within this handbook.
15.44 For the purposes of calculating whether the employee meets the 12 months’ continuous service requirement with the Department of Health or Department of Social Care or another NHS employers the following provisions shall apply:
- ‘NHS employers’ includes health authorities, NHS boards, NHS trusts, primary care trusts and the Northern Ireland Health Service a break in service of three months or less will be disregarded (though not count as service).
15.45 The following breaks in service will also be disregarded (though not count as service):
- employment under the terms of an honorary contract
- employment as a locum with a general practitioner for a period not exceeding 12 months
- a period of up to 12 months spent abroad as part of a definite programme of postgraduate training on the advice of the postgraduate dean or college or faculty adviser in the speciality concerned
- a period of voluntary service overseas with a recognised international relief organisation for a period of 12 months which may exceptionally be extended for 12 months at the discretion of the employer which recruits the employee on her return
- absence on an employment break scheme in accordance with the provisions of Section 35 of this Handbook
- absence on maternity leave (paid or unpaid) as provided for under this agreement
15.46 Employers may extend the period specified following the procedures set out.
15.47 Employment as a trainee with a general medical practitioner in accordance with the provisions of the Trainee Practitioner Scheme shall similarly be disregarded and count as service.