Baby on the way!

When a member of your team announces that they are to be a parent, it’s a cause for celebration, but when the cakes and non-alcoholic beverages have been consumed, there are some important issues to take into account.

There are statutory requirements relating to both maternity and paternity, ideally, your company will have a policy for both, stating both the statutory and company requirements. 

The issues reach far beyond the parent-in-waiting. It will impact on their colleagues, the company budgets and staffing.

Maternity and Paternity Leave

Everyone is different – and nobody has a crystal ball – so each individual may have their own idea of how much leave they will want to take before and after the birth of their child.

By law a mother cannot work during the two weeks immediately following birth, but there are a range of options available regarding how long before the birth and how long after the birth leave may be taken – and various options about payment.

As an employer it’s important to be clear about what you must offer and what you’d like to add onto statutory requirements. The same applies to paternity leave. When people are absent from their workplace there is a cost to the business and business owners need to be able to make decisions about how the business picks up the duties normally carried out by the person on leave. 

  • If it’s relatively short-term could their colleagues pick up the essential tasks?
  • Do we need a temporary member of staff either employed on a temporary basis or through an agency?
  • Will we need an interim employee employed full-time for a specific period or an open-ended time-frame?

It will depend on the work that the new parent-to-be carries out as to whether that can be covered short-term by colleagues or by a temp. For senior team members or specialist staff this can be a much more complex – and correspondingly, more expensive issue.

The other issue to consider is that babies don’t run to a clock or calendar and may decide to make an appearance earlier or later than originally expected. While your team member may have given you their expected due date and the date from which they will be absent, an early birth can throw that plan out of sync! 

Adoption, surrogacy and IVF

Not all parents arrive at parenthood by the natural process, your policies need to consider all the other options and the leave requirements that surround them. Adoption and surrogacy can apply to both heterosexual and same-sex couples and while the actual physical issues of giving birth are not applicable, it’s important to ensure that these parents are given the same consideration as others.

When it comes to IVF there may be additional medical appointments during the process of conception and it’s up to the business owner to decide whether this should be included in the policies relating to maternity, paternity and shared parental leave. Generally, these will tend to be of a much shorter duration and only involve being absent for a day or part of a day at a time.

While maternity leave can be up to a year, paternity leave and shared parental leave is likely to be much shorter. Larger corporations can offer much longer periods and afford to cover the costs, but if you have a smaller team, budgeting ahead for the cost of covering possible maternity and paternity leave is essential.

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