I was recently asked to comment on the changes to maternity pay for the Politics Show on BBC1. The changes come from the EU Parliament, and require employers to pay staff who go on maternity leave full pay for 20 weeks, instead of 90% of full pay for 6 weeks.
I was surprised how deep the myths around maternity pay are, so I decided to debunk a few ideas here.
A pregnant employee will cost me a fortune
Big myth. Not true. If an employee goes on maternity leave, you pay her, and then you claim back all the money from the government. They pay, not the employer. Yes, you have to fill out some forms (again) but it doesn’t cost you any money. If you’ve got a new employee in to cover, you’ll have to pay them, but as you’re no longer paying the one with the baby, there’s no extra cost.
She won’t come back
A bit of a myth. Two thirds of women do come back after maternity leave, usually within 28 weeks after the baby is born. And when someone isn’t going to come back, she’ll usually tell you beforehand, or let’s face it, you’ll know.
I’ll have to get someone else
This is the area which is in fact a major pain when someone goes on maternity leave. We all hate recruitment, and don’t have time to train someone new up. So you have to think about how you’re going to cover. Often you just need to advertise the job on a temporary contract, but sometimes you can be more creative. Would you be recruiting for a new person anyway? Could you get someone in to do the maternity cover, but also train them to do something else, so when your original person comes back you can redeploy the new person elsewhere in the team?
She’ll be out of the loop
This one may or may not be true. If someone is on maternity leave for 6-12 months, then of course they’re going to be out of the loop. So if you want to make the most of them, it’s up to you to do a kind of return to work induction and get them up to speed as fast as possible. Remember that you can do “Keep In Touch” days while she’s on maternity leave, where the woman comes in and spends a day in the office, maybe helping with a project, or coming in for a planning day. These can work really well, and when your employee comes back, she’ll be ready to go.
The person who’s going on maternity leave is probably a really useful member of staff who you really want to keep because she makes you lots of money. If she goes on maternity leave, then do see this as a temporary interruption to her working for you, rather than a disaster. And when things move as fast as they do in a business, she’ll probably be back before you know it.
In the 1930’s a woman would automatically leave work (or be forced to) when she got married. That attitude seems ridiculous to us now, but fears around maternity leave and pay are based on the same idea. Let’s leave all that behind and concentrate on doing business in the 21st century.
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