The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was amended earlier this year so that it makes no distinction between ordinary maternity leave (OML) and additional maternity leave (AML).
To ensure that employees on maternity leave have rights consistent with those on adoption leave, regulations have been introduced that amend the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999 and the Paternity and Adoption Leave Regulations 2002.
The important date for employers to note regarding the implementation of the changes is 5 October 2008. For the sake of simplicity, this Q&A refers to the effect the regulations will have on maternity rights. They will have a corresponding effect on adoption rights.
Q Which employees will be affected by the new regulations?
A The amendments will affect:
- In the case of maternity, an employee whose expected week of childbirth begins on or after 5 October 2008
- In the case of adoption, an employee whose child is expected to be placed with him/her for adoption on or after 5 October 2008
- In the case of overseas adoption, an employee whose child enters Great Britain on or after 5 October 2008.
Q What is the key change?
A The key change is that the rights and obligations of employees during AML will be consistent with the rights and obligations of employees on OML. The main practical effect of this is that terms and conditions enjoyed by employees on OML will continue to be available during AML.
Currently, employees on OML benefit from the terms and conditions that would have applied to them had they been at work, with the exception of remuneration, ie wages or salary. With the introduction of the new regulations, these benefits will continue during AML.
Q What happens to benefits such as the private use of company cars and medical insurance after the payment of statutory maternity pay stops after 39 weeks of maternity leave?
A The short answer is, most likely, nothing. By way of background, OML lasts for the first 26 weeks of maternity leave. AML follows immediately after the end of OML and lasts for a further 26 weeks, giving a total entitlement of 52 weeks' statutory maternity leave.
Statutory maternity pay is payable for up to the first 39 weeks of maternity leave - ie it cea