Guidance for Managers
This has been compiled to provide guidance to line managers supporting their employees in the lead up, during and when they return from family leave. This can be applied to maternity, adoption and parental leave and the aim of the guidance is to summarise the responsibilities the line manager has in setting up support, maintaining communication and contributing to a smooth transition back to work for their team members.
Before the family leave starts
In cases where an employee is applying for adoption, entitlement to time off for appointments, adoption leave and pay do not commence until they have been formally ‘matched’ with a child. This takes place after the adoption assessment has been completed and the employee has been approved to adopt by their chosen adoption agency. This may mean that informal support may be sought by the employee during their adoption assessment. Examples of the support they may require include approaching the line manager for a reference, time out to attend preparation classes or requesting temporary flexible working arrangements to carry out voluntary duties as part of the working day. The time out that employees will need will depend on case to case and it could be a mixture of annual leave, flexible working arrangements or taking unpaid leave. It is for the manager to apply discretion as to what would work for individual circumstances.
You can read more information on the early stages of adoption to be aware of the process that is followed.
When an employee notifies you, as their line manager, that they are pregnant an Expectant Mother’s Risk Assessment must be completed as soon as possible in line with the guidance published by the Health & Safety Service. This is a really important manager function as it is a legal requirement to carry this out to demonstrate that adjustments to the workplace have been considered to protect the health and safety of the employee and their unborn child.
Where you are managing an employee who is pregnant, it is also worth ensuring you are informed about what steps you may need to take to support them should they experience any health complications leading up to the birth. If your employee is experiencing health difficulties, you should ask them to seek medical advice via their G.P so they can obtain a “fit note” with advice on what work activities they can/cannot perform. For these and other health difficulties that the employee is finding difficult to obtain a ‘fit note’ from their GP to explain, you can also refer the employee to the Occupational Health Service so that you can receive a report with advice on what adjustments it would be helpful for you to consider making in the workplace to support your employee during their pregnancy.
In cases where the employee has to start their leave early either due to sickness or early arrival of their baby, it is important that you advise their HR Adviser of this so the appropriate actions can be taken in terms of notifying payroll and advising the employee of the new/revised dates for leave.
You should also be aware of information available to you and your employee in the eventuality they may have a miscarriage (after 24 weeks) and/or a still birth. For more details, please see Parental Bereavement Leave or contact one of the HR Advisory team.
Family leave planning
In all cases of family leave, it is beneficial for you and your team member to have early discussions about the anticipated family leave start date to enable appropriate cover to be sourced, handovers where practicable and early release from work where that becomes necessary. Schools and Functions are fully reimbursed for the salary costs of staff taking maternity, adoption and shared parental leave. This leaves funds available in the School or Function budget to arrange the appropriate staffing cover.
Employees may also wish to utilise accrued annual leave leading up to the start of their family leave (and indeed at the end, see below for more details in relation to planning for this) so it is important to be clear on what the employee wishes to do and consider the operational feasibility of what they are proposing so that you can plan for appropriate work cover.
It can also be helpful to have early discussions about how you can keep in touch while your team member is on family leave. Some colleagues prefer to separate themselves completely from work while they are off and do not wish to be contacted, some appreciate the continued contact and there can be occasions (for example when new roles are advertised or when restructures take place) when contact with them will be necessary so it is valuable to discuss this well before the family leave starts.
Finally, if the employee has been employed via an employer-sponsored UK visa, notification must be given to the HR Services team via email@example.com to ensure the period of family leave has been communicated to the appropriate authorities.
During family leave
Keeping in touch
The employee on family leave is still part of the team, so it is important for you to keep in touch with them in line with the agreements made before their leave commenced.
The employee can work up to 10 Keep In Touch (KIT) days during their maternity or adoption leave and up to 20 Shared Parental Leave in Touch (SPLiT) days. These days can be used for the purposes of attending meetings, training, or undertaking normal work and must be agreed in advance with the line manager along with agreement on the work they will be doing on that day. They are paid for these or alternatively the employee can request the equivalent time off once they have returned from their period of statutory leave and their family leave pay is not interrupted. The School or Function budget meets the costs of the KIT day payments to the employee and the forms used to claim the KIT and SPLiT days are found on the Family Leave pages.
When significant training sessions take place, vacancies in the team are advertised or a restructure takes place, you should communicate these to the employee who is on family leave (using the method you have agreed) so they are informed and can participate in training, apply for vacancies and/or can be advised of any proposed changes which may impact their role and terms and conditions of employment.
Planning their return
In the lead up to the employee’s planned return date, it is valuable for you and employee to have a discussion about when and how the employee would like to return to work. It is a legal requirement for you to be able to offer the same contractual hours and the same/similar role to the employee that they were doing before their family leave started. However, should the employee wish to amend their working hours or working pattern on their return to work, they should submit a formal Flexible working request so that you can consider if the employee’s proposal is one you can support.
In addition to planning the working hours, it is beneficial for you to plan the re-introduction back to the role your team member may require. It would be beneficial to view this as effectively an induction programme to re-introduce them back into their work. It will involve communicating changes in working practices/procedures that may have taken place while they have been away and considering training and development needs they may have on their return.
In return for receiving reimbursement to cover the employee while they are on family leave, the School or Function should budget for up to 25% of the salary costs to support the employees’ return to work. The purpose of this is to ensure that staff returning from maternity, adoption or shared parental leave are appropriately supported in the transition to returning to work and to full productivity, and in regaining momentum in career development. You can work with your Finance Business Partner to plan this expenditure in your budget.
Return to work
When the employee returns back to work, it is helpful to remember that they may have been away from the workplace for a long period of time. Plan time in for them to get to grips with practical changes that have taken place while they have been away as well as procedural ones. Consider whether they may need temporary adjustments to their workload on their initial return help ease them back in.
For those returning from maternity leave, if they are continuing to breastfeed or are expressing milk, you should make reference to the guidance in Breastfeeding in the Safety Code of Practice and talk this through with the employee.
You will need to make time to catch up with your employee during the first week and on a regular 1:1 basis thereafter to continue to monitor their return to work and to enact the plans for their training and development. By setting up and maintaining regular communication (in a similar manner that you would a new member of the team), it can mean that any concerns about wellbeing (that are brought up by the employee or you) can be picked up quickly and any long term impacts on their performance in the role can be addressed early and worked on together to resolve.