Following the passing of new draft legislation to extend fully paid maternity leave to 20 weeks across Europe by a committee of the European Parliament, Judith Fiddler, Managing Director of HR specialist Direct Law & Personnel, believes this will increase the chances of mothers being made redundant following their maternity leave.
Currently UK employees are entitled to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave. Those who qualify for statutory maternity pay (SMP) receive 90% of their pay for the first six weeks, and then the next 33 weeks at either the standard SMP rate of £123.06 or 90% of their average gross weekly earnings – whichever is the lowest. The remaining time is unpaid
Judith comments “The additional redundancy risk doesn’t arise specifically from any extra cost concerns because employers can recover most of this from the state. “However higher pay makes it more likely that employees will stay on their maternity leave for a longer period, hence employers are forced to re-allocate their role either to a temporary person or more commonly by dividing the duties between the remaining team members.”
“When a role is being reassessed because of a maternity period and because it is often then divided up, the longer the person is away the more likely it is that an employer will begrudge paying their salary on their return to work. “The job may have effectively gone and a legal redundancy situation may occur as their role is no longer present in the company because the working practices of the business have changed.”
This means employers are stuck between their natural desire to be fair to the employee and the need to keep the business running efficiently. Lord Young, the UK’s Employment Relations Minister, commented recently “We already have a generous system which is better than many European Union countries and works well, balancing the needs of businesses and workers.” The 20-week plan will go before the European Parliament early next month.
3 March 2010
Human Resources news brought to you by theHRDIRECTOR – the only independent strategic HR publication.