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Maternity Leave and Pay Policy

Entitlements and support available to pregnant employees and to those on, and returning from, maternity leave.

Contents


Purpose and aim

1. This policy sets out the entitlements and support available to pregnant employees and to those on, and returning from, maternity leave (ML).

2. This policy also sets out the additional provisions and entitlements for mothers whose baby needs neonatal care because they are premature or because they have health issues at birth.

3. For further information on other types of leave available for parents, guardians, and carers please see the relevant policy A-Z section on the policy page, and click on the parental leave toolkit page

Scope

4. This policy applies to all pregnant UCL employees, regardless of any protected characteristic (including sexual orientation and/or gender reassignment), their length of service, or their funding source.

5. Employees who are pregnant surrogates, are also covered under this policy. 

6. Employees seeking to request time off for work to undergo fertility treatment should access the Special Leave Policy (Time off for Personal and Domestic Reasons). 

Definitions

7. See Appendix A for definitions and abbreviations used throughout this Policy and Procedure. 

Policy

Risk assessments

8. Employees should notify their line manager, as soon as reasonably practical, that they are pregnant and request that their line manager carries out a risk assessment. The risk assessment will identify any potential risks in the workplace to the employee and their unborn baby/babies.

9. A risk assessment should also be carried out if expectant or new parents are breastfeeding or expressing milk at work. Please see section Quiet rooms for further details on facilities provided at UCL. 

10. Further information about conducting risk assessments for new and expectant parents is available from UCL Safety Services

Time off for antenatal appointments

11. Employees who are pregnant, are entitled to take reasonable paid time off during working hours for antenatal care. 

12.  An employee whose partner or spouse is pregnant is entitled to request unpaid time off to accompany their partners to up to two such appointments.

13. Employees must endeavour to give as much notice as possible to their line manager for antenatal appointments.

14. It is not necessary to provide UCL with any documentation as proof of their first appointment but employees may be asked to produce proof of subsequent appointments.

Quiet rooms

15. Some quiet, private rooms have been identified in various UCL buildings which can be used by new and expectant parents to rest, or for expressing/breastfeeding. Reasonable paid time off is permitted for employees who need to use these facilities.  

Entitlement to maternity leave

16. There is no qualifying length of service requirement for maternity leave.

17. Eligible employees are entitled to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave.

18. When the employee wants to start their leave: the earliest that maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before the EWC. 

19. The legal minimum amount of maternity leave which employees are required to take is 2 weeks commencing with the day on which childbirth occurs, except where a child is born before the expected week of childbirth (EWC), when the compulsory maternity leave starts on the day after the child is born.

20. An employee can opt to return to work any time after the end of the 2-week compulsory leave period up to the end of the 52-week maximum maternity leave period, subject to section 21 of this policy.

21. If a pregnant employee takes any time off work with a pregnancy-related condition in the 4 weeks prior to the EWC, maternity leave will usually start automatically on the day after the first day of absence.

However, the employee may not wish for the maternity leave to start automatically, for example, if the employee has a mild pregnancy-related sickness, so they can agree that maternity leave is not triggered. In this situation, the manager should record the details of the agreement in writing to avoid uncertainty over the start and end dates of the agreed maternity leave period and email this to HR Services so that a copy of the agreement can be kept on the employee's HR file.

22. Where the baby is born early, maternity leave will automatically start the day after the baby is born. The employee should notify their line manager/HR Services as soon as reasonably possible, including the birth certificate or signed document from a doctor or midwife confirming the actual date of birth. HR Services will then confirm the new Maternity Leave dates.

23. If the baby is stillborn after the start of the 24th week of pregnancy, maternity leave will start automatically the day after the baby is born.  

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Entitlement to maternity pay

24. Providing that the correct notification processes have been followed (section Notification Process), all employees taking maternity leave, regardless of length of service, are entitled to Occupational Maternity Pay (OMP).

25. OMP is full pay for 18 weeks. This can be paid in either of the following ways:

(i) 18 weeks' full pay, or

(ii) 9 weeks' full pay followed by 18 weeks' half pay.

26. An employee on maternity leave will be eligible for SMP if they have at least 26 weeks' service at the Notification Week (15th week before the EWC) and provided that the average earnings are above the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions at the 26th week. Those employees who are not eligible for SMP may be able to claims Statutory Maternity Allowance (SMA), the employee should check the latest Government Guidance.

SMP is payable for a 39-week period and is included within the weeks of OMP. Payment for the two options is as follows and no other payment schedule options are available:

Week

Option (i)

Option (ii)

Not eligible for SMP: option (i)

Not eligible for SMP: option (ii)

1-9

Full pay (incorporating 6 weeks higher rate SMP + 3 weeks lower rate SMP)

Full pay (incorporating 6 weeks higher rate SMP + 3 weeks lower rate SMP)Full payFull pay
10-18Full pay (incorporating lower rate SMP)Half pay + lower rate SMPFull payHalf pay
19-27Lower rate SMPHalf pay (incorporating lower rate SMP)UnpaidHalf pay
28-39Lower rate SMPLower rate SMPUnpaidUnpaid
40-52UnpaidUnpaidUnpaidUnpaid

Please check the Government website for the current SMP rate

27. Payment of maternity pay commences simultaneously with the beginning of the maternity leave period and is paid monthly in arrears (in the same way salary is paid). 

Notification Process

28. Employees should let their line manager know (confidentially if required) that they are pregnant as soon as is reasonably practical, so that a risk assessment can be carried out.  

The employee should agree with their line manager when others can be told such as the Departmental Administrator/local HR contact (if applicable) so that the absence can be planned for.  The employee must complete the online application form as soon as it is reasonably practical and by the end of the 15th week before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC), providing their MATB1 form, or a letter from their doctor or midwife confirming the expected due date.

29. Once the line manager has signed the application form, it will be automatically sent to HR Services, who will then write to the employee within four weeks to confirm the maximum amount of ML and Maternity Pay to which they are entitled, including the date by which they are expected to return to work.

30. The employee can contact HR Services if they have a query about eligible dates and entitlements. Employees can also use the maternity leave calculator and leave planner to help plan leave.

31. If an employee subsequently changes their mind about the start date of their maternity leave, they must give four weeks' notice of the new start date, unless maternity leave is automatically triggered as per points 21 or 22. They can do this by emailing HR Services but must ensure their line manager and Departmental Administrator/local HR contact (if applicable) are also aware of their new dates.

32. Maternity leave will automatically end 52 weeks after the start date unless the employee has specified a return date or given 8 weeks' notice in writing to return before this date

33. If an employee wishes to change the date they want to return to work, they should give at least 8 weeks' notice in writing of the new date. 

34. The employee may wish to curtail their maternity leave in order to enter into shared parental leave with their partner. For details on this refer to the Shared Parental Leave Policy

Pregnancy and baby loss

35. Where the employee has a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or termination before 24 weeks into their pregnancy, there are no entitlements to ML, OMP and SMP. The employee may however be entitled to occupational and/or statutory sick pay.

36. Where an employee has a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy onwards, or the baby only survives for a short period of time after birth, full maternity leave and maternity pay will be retained, irrespective of the timing of the birth.  In addition, they are entitled to take 4 weeks’ paid bereavement leave, which can be added to the end of their maternity leave. For further details, please read the Special Leave Policy.

37. Employees can access support and counselling via the Employee Assistance Programme.

38. Employees may also wish to access support from various baby loss organisations. 

Neonatal leave

39. UCL recognises the emotional and financial difficulties which arise from premature births and situations where a newborn is immediately hospitalised after birth.

40. Employees who are entitled to maternity leave under this policy will also be entitled to an additional period of leave to add to the end of their maternity leave or shared parental leave if their baby is in hospital for at least 7 days following birth.

41. Employees will be entitled to neonatal leave on full pay, equivalent to the number of days that their baby has been in hospital for, immediately following birth, for at least 7 days. This leave is capped at 12 weeks.

42. Neonatal leave must be taken before the employee returns to work and must not be taken in conjunction with any other type of parental leave, or annual leave.

43. Employees who are eligible to take neonatal leave should notify their line manager as soon as possible after the birth of the baby to let them know that there have been complications. During their maternity leave, they should confirm to their line manager how many weeks their baby was in the hospital and give their line manager 8 weeks’ notice of when their maternity leave will cease and therefore when their neonatal leave will commence. 

44. Neonatal leave does not need to be agreed by the Line Manager or HR because it is an automatic entitlement, providing the criteria are met. However, the employee, line manager or departmental administrator must still request/record the period of paid leave for the appropriate number of days/weeks in MyHR as “Paid Leave”, “Other”, in order that the pay can be processed and it is clear that the employee has not yet returned to work. A comment should be recorded to state the leave is neonatal leave.

45. Sections Continuity of employment - Financial assistance for departments in this policy are also applicable to neonatal leave.

46. Neonatal leave is provided in addition to carer’s leave under the Special Leave Policy.

Keeping in contact during maternity leave and keeping in touch days (KIT days)

47. UCL is permitted to maintain contact with employees on maternity leave, providing the contact is reasonable.

48. Employees should discuss with their line manager, prior to commencing their maternity leave, how often they would like to keep in touch, and by what means of communication- for example email updates on what is happening at UCL or within their immediate department or faculty.

Employees on maternity leave should be kept informed (and consulted with, where appropriate) regarding any important business changes or announcements that may affect them. 

49. Employees on maternity leave should have access to any internal job vacancies which may be of interest to them and should not be disadvantaged in any way when making an application.

Employees on maternity leave should also be included in invitations to social events, training, and conferences that they may wish to attend during their maternity leave. 

Employees on maternity leave should have the same access of opportunity in terms of training and career progression as other employees and should not be disadvantaged in any way by their absence.

50. An employee and their manager can agree up to 10 'keeping in touch' (KIT) days which can be used during maternity leave, without bringing the maternity leave to an end. KIT days are not mandatory and should be mutually agreed upon between the manager and the employee. 

51. KIT days can be used for any activity that the employee would normally undertake if they were at work. Examples of activities are attendance on training courses, meetings, briefings, and conferences. The time should be used productively and agreed upon in advance. 

52. Any work undertaken on a KIT day will be treated as a whole KIT day irrespective of the actual amount of time spent at work and will count as a whole day's entitlement. For example, going into work for a 2-hour meeting will count as 1 KIT from the 10-day entitlement. 

53. Employees will be paid their normal rate of pay to the nearest half or full day for any KIT days they take, in addition to any SMP and OMP they are receiving at the time the KIT day is taken. Payment for KIT days is funded by the respective department budget.

54. Payments for KIT days will be subject to deductions for tax and NI but will not be eligible for salary sacrifice. Whether payments for KIT days are pensionable is dependent on the particular pension scheme. Please contact pensions for further information.

55. Employees should complete the online KIT/SPLIT Day form, located in the Parental Leave Toolkit, with the dates worked and if this was a full or half day. Once signed by the Line Manager, this will be sent to the Departmental Administrator/Local HR Contact, who will raise this payment via Departmental Transactions using the “KIT Day Payment” pay element. This should be submitted on, or after the KIT day has been worked. 

Continuity of employment 

56. The employment contract with UCL continues during maternity leave, and the period of continuous employment for the calculation of superannuation, benefits, accrual of annual leave, and entitlement to statutory rights, is not affected.

Annual leave

57. Statutory and contractual annual leave (including bank holidays and UCL closure days) is accrued throughout the whole period of maternity leave. 

58. Employees must normally take any outstanding accrued annual leave in the year they start maternity leave, prior to the commencement of the period of their maternity leave. In exceptional circumstances, this may not always be possible, for example, if maternity leave starts earlier than expected. Any annual leave accrued during the period of maternity leave must be taken at the end of maternity leave, or as soon as reasonably practicable, afterward.
59. Part-time employees are entitled to a prorated entitlement to any bank holiday and closure days that occur during their period of maternity leave added to their overall holiday entitlement. 

Authorised deductions from pay

60. Where an employee has authorised salary deductions (e.g. Trade Union membership subscriptions or Give as You Earn) these payments will continue to be deducted during maternity leave. Unless instructed otherwise, UCL will continue to pay all of an employee's authorised deductions during the period of unpaid maternity leave and these contributions will be recovered from future salary payments. 

61. If an employee wishes to cancel any authorised salary deductions or contributions whilst on maternity leave, they should contact the HR Payroll Services Team to notify them. For details of how maternity leave affects pension contributions, employees should contact the HR Pension Services Teams or refer to the following information.  

Returning to work

62. Employees returning from maternity leave will usually return to the same job unless there has been a restructure in their absence, following staff consultation. See Organisational Change Procedure and Redeployment Policy for further details. 

63. Line managers should ensure employees returning from maternity leave are supported and integrated back into the business with a return to work plan. 

64. Employees wishing to take additional periods of leave such as unpaid parental leave or carer's leave should refer to the relevant policy on the A-Z section of the policy page on the staff intranet. 

65. To mark UCL's commitment to gender equality in academic careers, research-active academic employees returning from maternity leave are entitled to take one term of Sabbatical Leave, without teaching commitments, in accordance with the principles set out in the Sabbatical Leave Policy. This leave will enable staff more quickly to re-establish research activity. 

66. Sections 9, 10 and 15 provide information on risk assessments for employees returning to work who are breastfeeding and expressing milk, and facilities provided by UCL for this.

67. Employees who take maternity leave may wish to amend their working pattern on their return to work, either on a permanent or temporary basis. Please see the Work-Life Balance Policy for details on how these requests will be handled. 

It is important to note that the process to request flexible working can take up to 13 weeks, therefore as much notice as possible should be given when requesting a change in working hours. 

Ending employment

68. Employees with open-ended appointments who decide not to return to work, during or following a period of maternity leave, should give the correct amount of notice to resign in line with their contract of employment. 

Their employment will end once their notice period comes to an end. 

There is no requirement to repay any OMP or SMP if an employee resigns during their maternity leave.

When processing the employee as a leaver in MyHR the leaver reason to be selected is "Maternity- not returned".

69. Employees will be paid in lieu of any accrued untaken holiday, bank holidays, and closure days. 

70. If an employee's post is potentially at risk of redundancy or their contract is due to end during their maternity leave, they will be consulted as appropriate in accordance with the Termination Procedure or Organisational Change Procedure. Consultation meetings can be held online or via telephone calls as agreed between the employee and their line manager.

If a pregnant employee or an employee who is on maternity leave, or has recently returned from, maternity leave is potentially at risk of redundancy or their contract is due to end, they will have priority status for redeployment opportunities in line with the Redeployment Procedure .

UCL will pay the appropriate OMP entitlement until the last day of employment. After this date, if an employee is entitled to SMP, this will be paid as a lump sum in their final payslip, plus any outstanding annual leave. 

Financial assistance for departments

71. In an event that an employee applies to take maternity leave under this policy, the department may request financial assistance to cover the duties of the absent employee which need to be undertaken within the period of absence and which cannot be covered by other staff in the department within their usual working week. 

Monitoring of policy

72. The Employment Policy Team will keep the monitoring of maternity leave and the operation of this policy under review. 

Appendices

FileAppendix A: Parental Leave Definitions


HR Policy Team

April 2024