Are you properly supporting pregnant employees or those on maternity leave? Here are some steps for employers to be aware of:

1. Make employees aware of their rights. As an absolute minimum, employees should be made aware of their rights during pregnancy and know how to exercise them. Employees will generally be aware of the more obvious rights, such as maternity leave, but may not know they have the right to carry over untaken holiday where their maternity leave spans two leave years.

2. Communication is key. Ensuring effective communication with employees before, during and after maternity leave is crucial, although contact during maternity leave must be limited to what is ‘reasonable’. Having open discussions with pregnant employees early on should enable employers to plan for the effective management of the leave. Where problems do arise, employees should be encouraged to raise their concerns through an internal grievance procedure in the first instance.

3. Right to return. It can often be tempting for employers to consider making temporary members of staff covering maternity leave permanent, particularly where they are perceived to be ‘better’ than the employee on maternity leave. Employers need to be careful not to overlook the fact that employees who have been absent for 26 weeks or less are legally entitled to return to the role they held before their absence, or a suitable alternative role, on no less favourable terms. (This right also applies at the end of additional maternity leave although an employer can offer an alternative suitable role if it is not reasonably practical for an employee to return to the same job.) If an employee is dismissed because of her pregnancy or maternity status, the dismissal will be automatically unfair and the employer could face unfair dismissal and discrimination claims.

4. Consider flexible working. Employees with 26 weeks’ continuous service are entitled to request flexible working for any reason. Employers must deal with such requests in a reasonable manner and notify employees of the outcome within the three-month decision period. It will often be in the employer’s best interest to grant such requests where possible .

See the full article at weblog/archive/2016/09/01/how-to-manage-employees-during-pregnancy- and-maternity-leave.aspx