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pregnant pregnant

Guidance for employers

Becoming a new parent is an exciting prospect for your employee however it can also be filled with anxiety as they step into a new aspect of life.

Supporting your employee through their pregnancy, maternity leave and beyond will ensure they feel valued and are more likely to remain a loyal employee long term. Nothing is more important than family and a good employer will ensure that their teams have the appropriate flexible support throughout their parenting journey.

Employees do not have to inform you that they are pregnant until the fifteenth week before their due date. However, employees should be encouraged to tell you as soon as they feel comfortable doing so that appropriate support, risk assessments and health and safety requirements can be made.

Health and safety - risk assessments
  • Health and safety during pregnancy must be paramount
  • It is vital that you complete a risk assessment with your pregnant employee as soon as possible to mitigate as many risks as possible.  
  • The risk assessment should be revisited through out the pregnancy and should be adapted as appropriate. 
  • If risks within the work place cannot be removed or alternative working conditions are not offered, then the employee should be suspended on full pay.
  • Practices will have their own risk assessment document, or templates can be downloaded from the HSE website Protecting pregnant workers and new mothers - HSE
Antenatal appointments
  • All pregnant mothers are entitled to have paid leave for antenatal scans and appointments during work time. 
  • You should also allow the baby’s father, pregnant persons spouse or pregnant person’s partner paid time off for 2 appointments per pregnancy.  
  • This is also true for employees having a baby by a surrogate mother. 
  • To be supportive to new parents it is advised employees should be allowed to book holiday or unpaid leave for additional appointments.
Maternity leave

All pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave (SML) irrespective of the length of time they have worked for you, how many hours they work or how much you pay them. This is made up of: 

  • 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave (OML)
  • 26 weeks of additional maternity leave (AML)

Fathers are entitled to shared paternity leave.

For your employee to qualify for maternity leave they must provide you with the following information:

  • A copy of their maternity certificate (MATB1) that they receive after their 20-week scan.
  • A due date.
  • A proposed maternity leave start date (this may vary over time as the pregnancy changes).
  • Whether they will be claiming Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).

      You must write to your employee within 28 days confirming start and end dates of maternity leave.

      Pregnant mothers are able to take maternity leave within 11 weeks of the expected due date and you should allow the date to be changed as the pregnancy progresses. 

      If an employee wishes to change their maternity leave start date, then they should notify you in writing 28 days prior to the date

      Each time your employee notifies you of a change of start date you must also re calculate and confirm the end date in writing.

      You must allow maternity leave to start earlier without notice if your employee has pregnancy related illness in the 4 weeks prior to their due date or if their baby is born prematurely. In such circumstances you should ask that your employee notifies you as soon as they are able to.

      Your employees do not have to take their full entitlement of maternity leave, however by law, they must take a compulsory 2 week maternity leave starting from when the baby is born.

      Maternity, Adoption and paternity calculator for employers (www.gov.uk)

      Maternity pay

      To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) an employee must:

      • Earn more than £123 per week.
      • Have worked for you continuously for at least 26 weeks prior to the qualifying week (15 weeks prior to the employee’s due date). 
      • On average the employee should have worked for you for just over 9 months by the time the baby is due.
      • Provided you with proof that the baby is due (MATB1 form).
      • Provided you with written confirmation of the start date of maternity leave with 28 days’ notice.
      • No longer be working.

        You should still provide SMP if an employee’s baby:

        • Is born early.
        • Is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
        • Dies after being born.

        SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks and includes the following:

        • 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks.
        • £184.03 (2024) or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
        • SMP should paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly). 
        • Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

        All employers should consider enhanced maternity pay to support new parents through this vulnerable time, which offers better support for those working within the equine veterinary industry and may improve employee retention.

        If employees are not eligible for SMP, you should provide your employee with a completed HMRC Form SMP1 which enables them to claim Maternity Allowance. Employees may claim this as soon as they have been pregnant for 26 weeks and payments can start 11 weeks before the baby is due.

        Maternity, Adoption and paternity calculator for employers (www.gov.uk)

        Employee benefits and accruing holiday
        • Your employees are entitled to all their contractual benefits except pay, and as such these should continue to be made available whilst they are on maternity leave.
        • Holiday entitlement continues to be accrued in a normal way whilst an employee is on maternity leave, and is often added to the end date of Statutory Maternity Leave (SML).
        Keeping in touch (KIT) days
        • It is advisable to keep in touch with your employees whilst they are on maternity leave to ensure they are informed of new opportunities or training opportunities
        • This will ensure they feel valued and not forgotten whilst they are not working. 
        • However, your employee must consent to this and should let you know in writing if they do not wish for you to contact them.
        • An employee can work up to 10 keeping in touch (KIT) days whilst they are on maternity leave and should be paid their normal rate of pay
        • A KIT day does not have to be a whole day. It can be 1hr meeting or a half day, but each day is counted as 1 of the 10 KIT days.
        • It is important to ensure that if an employee is returning to work on a KIT Day that their RCVS membership has not been changed to non-practicing and that indemnity insurance remains in place.
        Returning to work
        • If an employee is planning to return to work sooner than the entitled 52 weeks then should do so in writing with 8 weeks’ notice.
        • If an employee is returning to week after 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) they are entitled to come back to the same role they had before with the same terms and conditions. 
        • If they return within the period of, or after the 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML), then you may offer a similar role to the one they previously held if it is not reasonably practical for them to resume the exact same role.
        • BEVA offers Back in the Saddle group coaching for anyone returning to work or wanting to review their careers, and provides support and guidance from trained coaches who are outside the practice but within the profession.