Will maternity leave be affected by coronavirus? - Kirsty Churm quoted in GoodtoKnow

26 March 2020

Kirsty Churm, senior associate in our Employment Law team, was quoted in GoodtoKnow regarding maternity leave and pay during the coronavirus outbreak.

This recent article has had many queries about maternity leave and the question is often the same, "what are my options when I return from maternity leave now that I’m unable to use the childcare I had planned?" Kirsty answers this question in a video which you can view on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Will maternity leave be affected by coronavirus?

All employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. An employee’s entitlement to maternity leave will not be affected, so long as they comply with their employer’s notification obligations.

Usually the employee chooses when to start their maternity leave.” However, Kirsty said, this start date may change as a result of social distancing measures, because of the coronavirus....However, being unwell with coronavirus itself would not automatically start maternity leave early, because it’s unrelated to the pregnancy itself,”

It is not yet clear how furlough leave will interact with other forms of leave, such as maternity and adoption leave. Furloughed employees will receive 80% of pay, capped at £2,500, which may be higher than maternity pay, but would require you to end your maternity leave.”

Can maternity pay be affected by coronavirus?

Kirsty explained that those already in receipt of maternity pay (be it statutory, adoption, or shared parental), will not have their pay affected, but pregnant women who are not yet receiving any money – perhaps as they are still technically working, may possibly see a dip in their money if they are currently away from work sick or self-isolating.

This is because if you are off sick or self-isolating then your earnings may go down during the period used to calculate your eligibility for these payments. While some employers will agree to pay full salary to a self-isolating employee, not all will. Many employees will only receive statutory sick pay during the 14-day self-isolation period, for example.”

So how exactly is maternity pay calculated?

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) or statutory adoption pay (SAP) is calculated by reference to an 8-week (if paid weekly) or 2-month (if paid monthly) period before the last pay day in or before the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth or the week in which you are matched with your child for adoption,”

“Many employers enhance their maternity and adoption pay, often calculating the pay by reference to the same calculation period used for the statutory payments. If that’s the case it’s important to check your employer’s terms to ensure that you are clear whether and when you will qualify for this, how your enhanced pay is calculated and whether this benefit can be revoked. Similarly if you are furloughed so that you receive 80% of your pay up to a cap of £2,500, this could affect your entitlements. It’s not yet clear how furlough leave will interact with other forms of leave, such as maternity and adoption leave."

Even if you do not qualify for SMP, you may qualify for maternity allowance. To qualify for maternity allowance, you must have worked (or been employed) for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to your expected week of childbirth, and earned at least £30 in 13 of those weeks. You need to fill out and submit a MA1 form.”

Can you be made redundant whilst on maternity leave?

Women on maternity leave have priority over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy. During maternity leave you are entitled to be offered a suitable alternative role with your employer where one is available. This includes a vacancy with an associated employer, such as a group company.”

However, this does not extend to newly pregnant women not on maternity leave yet, or new mums for the first 6 months after returning to work. Kirsty explained that there were plans to extend this protection to these women, but they have not yet been brought into force.

Therefore, pregnant women and new mums do not have additional protection against redundancy during these times. If you choose to extend your maternity leave by taking accrued holiday before returning to work, your maternity leave will have ended so you will not have this additional protection. Where no suitable alternative role exists, an employee can be made redundant during maternity leave following the consultation period.”

You can read the full article in GoodtoKnow here:

Will maternity pay and leave be affected by the coronavirus pandemic?

Further Information

If this is an area which concerns you please feel free to contact Kirsty or any member of the employment team.


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