Understanding maternity and paternity leave for tradespeople
What is statutory maternity leave?
Statutory maternity leave allows eligible employees to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The first 26 weeks are classed as ordinary maternity leave. The second 26 weeks are called additional maternity leave.
Employees can start their maternity leave up to 11 weeks before the expected due date of the baby. This can change if the baby is born prematurely.
Following the birth of a child, all employees must take at least two weeks of maternity leave. This mandatory period of maternity leave increases to four weeks for factory workers.
What is statutory paternity leave?
Statutory paternity leave allows eligible employees to take either one or two consecutive weeks of paternity leave. Paternity leave must begin on either:
- the day of the child’s birth
- a pre-agreed number of days after the birth
- a pre-agreed number of days after the expected due date
Paternity leave must end no later than 56 days after the birth. It cannot begin before the child is born. An employee or their partner is eligible for paternity leave if they:
- are expecting a baby
- are adopting a child
- have a surrogate baby
Statutory maternity and paternity pay explained
Eligible employees can receive statutory maternity pay (SMP) for up to a maximum of 39 weeks. The first six weeks of SMP are usually paid at a rate of 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax. The following 33 weeks are paid at either £156.66 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings. Employees will receive whichever is lower of the two options.
You can use the maternity/paternity leave calculator to calculate the rate of pay for eligible employees.
Eligible employees can receive statutory paternity leave at the lower rate of either £156.66 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings. National insurance and tax will both be deducted from paternity leave payments.
Maternity and paternity leave for self-employed workers
When it comes to maternity and paternity pay for self-employed workers, the rules are slightly different,
In the UK, self-employed fathers are currently not eligible for paternity leave or pay. There is no statutory paternity pay for self-employed workers expecting a child.
Maternity pay for self-employed workers is different. You can claim self-employed maternity pay if you meet the following criteria:
- You have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 of the 66 weeks preceding the expected birth date of your child.
- You have paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions.
- You are registered as self-employed with HMRC
Maternity Allowance is paid by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It is paid for 39 weeks at a rate of £156.66 per week.
Shared Parental Leave – a good option for tradespeople?
If you are self-employed as a tradesperson, you may be concerned that you’re unable to claim paid paternity leave. In certain circumstances, you may be able to claim shared paternity leave as the best option.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) provide expecting parents more flexibility. Up to 50 weeks of leave can be shared between parents and up to 37 weeks of pay.
The leave and pay must be shared in the first year after the child is born. It can be taken as one block of leave or in several blocks separated by periods of work. It can also be taken by both parents at the same time or staggered across the year.
Different rules for certain workers
Certain types of employment have different rules regarding maternity and paternity leave. Detailed information can be found on the government website.
As a general guide, the following employment types are subject to different maternity and paternity leave rights.
- Agency workers
- Agricultural workers
- Casual workers
- NHS employees
- Supply teachers
- Seasonal workers
- Employees with more than one job in the same company
- Employees based abroad
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide the correct form of maternity and paternity leave to all eligible employees.
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Additional company maternity and paternity schemes
Many companies offer their employees additional maternity and paternity leave schemes. These schemes and pay policies must be clear and easy to understand and must be readily available to all employees.
The most common form of additional maternity leave is offering all employees full pay for the first six weeks after the birth. Some employees offer a staggered return to work following the end of maternity leave. While others offer permanent flexible working arrangements to help with childcare.
Enhanced paternity leave schemes are also becoming increasingly commonplace. Many companies offer paternity leave schemes with full pay for the first two weeks following a child’s birth.
Flexible and homeworking following paternity leave are also becoming more standard. Although this may not be relevant to industries such as construction where you’re not able to work from home.
Antenatal appointments and employment rights
If an employee is entitled to maternity leave, they’re also entitled to attend antenatal appointments recommended by a doctor. Full pay must be given during these appointments. Employees do not need to use annual leave to attend antenatal appointments.
An employee’s employment rights are not normally affected during maternity or paternity leave. During maternity or paternity leave, an employee will continue to:
- Accrue holiday entitlement
- Continue to make pension contributions
- Be able to take a holiday before or after maternity/paternity leave to extend the period
Some employees can choose to work up to 10 paid days during their maternity leave. This increases to 20 days for shared parental leave.
Ultimately, understanding the rules and entitlements surrounding maternity and paternity pay is essential for tradespeople. Whether it’s understanding the nuances of maternity and paternity leave for self-employed tradespeople or the laws for employers.
Find out more about what you’re entitled to as a tradesperson with our guide to the law on working weekends.
Should employers contact staff during maternity leave?
Employers are allowed to contact staff during maternity leave. This could be work-related or a general health and wellbeing check.
Some companies agree in writing prior to maternity leave being taken, the amount of contact to expect during maternity leave.
If an employee feels they are being contacted too often during maternity leave, they should inform their employer immediately.
What forms need to be completed before maternity leave?
Employees are responsible for providing their employer with a completed MA1 form.
Employees expecting a baby should inform their employers at least 15 weeks before the expected due date.
An employer must then respond in writing within 28 days to confirm the maternity leave start and end dates.
What is the average length of company maternity pay?
Statutory maternity pay can be paid for up to a maximum of 39 weeks.
Most companies do not pay additional maternity pay after this time. However, many do offer to hold a position open in a company for a longer, agreed period of time.
Can holiday leave be combined with maternity leave?
Yes. An employer and employee can agree to add any holiday entitlement to the end or beginning of a period of maternity leave.
Should you offer flexible working after maternity leave?
Employees are obliged to respond to any requests for flexible working following maternity leave within three months. Employers do not have to provide flexible working although many it is much more common today.
To request flexible working, an employee must have worked for the company for at least 26 weeks. This includes maternity leave.
How much paternity leave are fathers entitled to?
In the UK, all fathers are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave.
For self-employed fathers, there is currently no financial support for paternity leave.
However, self-employed fathers can choose to pay themselves via PAYE and Class 1 National Insurance during paternity leave. This will depend on their financial circumstances, though.
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Content disclaimer: This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer here.