SEVENTY-FOUR PER CENT OF COMPANIES PROVIDE MORE THAT THE STATUTORY MATERNITY PAY
74% of companies provide more than the statutory maternity pay requirement, according to new research on maternity arrangements published by Incomes Data Services (IDS). Carried out by IDS Diversity at Work in conjunction with IDS Pay Report, the survey also reveals that just over half (52%) of respondents think that the current statutory minimum maternity pay for women is too low and only one per cent think it is too high.
The findings appear against a backdrop of recent media reports which suggest that the Government is considering delaying the extension of the maternity pay period from 39 to 52 weeks.
Sylvia Lo, Assistant Editor of IDS Diversity at Work, commented: ‘While the Labour Government has significantly improved maternity rights since coming to power, many employers think that they are still too low and choose to pay their pregnant workers more than the minimum requirements.’
The survey also shows that employers are increasingly using enhanced maternity benefits and incentives to retain key skills in the workforce. Some offer bonuses upon return while others have a clause in their policies whereby pay above the legal minimum must be paid back to the employer if the employee does not return to work or does not return for a minimum length of time.
Since April 2007, all pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave regardless of the length of service with their company. Statutory paid maternity leave is 39 weeks, with only the first six weeks paid at 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, and the remaining 33 weeks at a ‘prescribed rate’ of £117.18 per week.
Additional results include:
Respondents say they offer enhanced maternity pay because it is either part of a broader family friendly policy (63%), it improves recruitment and retention (50%) or it enhances the corporate brand (21%).
Keeping in Touch (KIT) days: An employee may use up to ten maternity leave days to attend conferences, training, or carry out normal work activities – 88% of organisations use these days to maintain contact with employees.
While there is no specific statutory right to breastfeed at work, encouragingly, more than half (55%) of respondents say they make arrangements for breastfeeding employees, the most common of which is access to a private room in which to express milk.
The survey also looks at paternity arrangements and finds that 70% of respondents enhance paternity leave and/or pay provisions above the statutory minimum.
Lo concluded: “Encouraging women to come back after maternity leave saves the laborious process of searching for someone new to fill the skills gap. If the mother is highly skilled, has worked for the company a long time, or has built up strong working relationships, it can be quite costly and difficult to recruit someone new and train them. Offering incentives like childcare vouchers, a phased return to work or a bonus payment can encourage the parent back to work at a much lower cost to the company. Even in a recession, employers will still need to find ways of attracting and keeping key staff and this is a way for them to do this.”
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