In recent months those involved in HR at any level have been near monopolised by Covid, isolation, shielding, furlough and numerous other off-shoots of the pandemic. But some issues have not gone away including the very delicate and sensitive ones of miscarriage and still births and their practical impact on entitlement to maternity leave and pay. So what does happen to maternity leave and pay if either of these tragic events occur?
In normal circumstances an entitlement to maternity leave for up to 52 weeks is a universal day-one right for a pregnant woman. Roughly speaking maternity pay will be due for up to 39 weeks and paid by the employer if the employee’s earnings are at least £120 per week and the employee has continuous service of 39 weeks before the baby is due. If the continuous service is borderline the qualification period should be carefully checked. If maternity pay is not applicable then maternity allowance can be applied for by the employee from the government.
Entitlement to Maternity Leave & Pay?
What happens in the case of a stillborn baby depends on how far into the pregnancy it occurs. If a baby is stillborn from the start of the 24th week of pregnancy the entitlement to maternity leave and maternity pay remains. The employee needs to obtain notification for the registration of a stillbirth from the attending doctor or midwife or a certificate of stillbirth from the registrar. Maternity leave and maternity pay also remain in place when a baby dies a short time after birth or indeed any time during maternity leave.
Best practice advice on dealing with miscarriage in the workplace can also be obtained from the Miscarriage Association.
When a baby is stillborn from 24 weeks of pregnancy or dies after birth there is an entitlement to parental bereavement leave.
A miscarriage or stillbirth before 24 weeks of pregnancy removes the right to maternity leave and pay. However, both these circumstances frequently lead to sickness absence, which should be treated with sensitivity. This will be pregnancy-related sickness and should not be taken into account for any disciplinary absence issue or where sick leave is a criterion for redundancy or promotion. Where an employee does not report sick but is distressed by the experience, paid annual leave, or unpaid leave or paid compassionate leave should be considered.
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