UK maternity and furlough rights during covid-19

As the UK went into lockdown we all wondered about the disruption this would cause. It’s true to say that the impact has affected some more than others, but as a nation, we all breathed a sigh of relief when the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outlined the set of protective measures he would introduce under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This scheme fundamentally helps protect workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The main focus of the scheme has been the protective measure to furlough staff, intended to protect millions of UK workers at risk of losing their job. The option to furlough employees means employers can allow employees a leave of absence from work while the government pays 80% of their wages, up to a maximum of £2500 per month. This applies to employers of all sizes and is designed to save jobs and keep the economy going until the lockdown is over.

The furloughed employee is effectively protected against redundancy during the furlough period. This allows the employer to retain the employee on their books and bring them back to work once lockdown is over. The employer however, must accept that the employee will not be able to carry out any work for them during this furlough period.

With the lockdown situation happening so quickly, it left many employers and employees struggling to keep up with the pace of change. Millions of employees were confused by what furlough meant for their job security and income – and this is still true for some. The situation was and is even more unclear for pregnant women about to go on maternity leave, or those already on maternity leave.

 

WHAT DOES FURLOUGH MEAN IF I’M ALREADY ON MATERNITY LEAVE?

According to the government, if you are on maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave or shared parental leave, then the normal rules for maternity and other forms of parental leave and pay apply. In other words, there is no change to the maternity leave rules and you will continue to receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) up to 39 weeks.

 

WHAT DOES FURLOUGH MEAN TO ME IF I’M ABOUT TO GO ON MATERNITY LEAVE?

If you are planning to go on Statutory Maternity Leave this means you will receive 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks of SMP, while for the remaining 33 weeks, you'll receive receive £151.20 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, depending on which is lower.

It is unlikely that an employer would put you on furlough leave if you are just about to go on maternity leave, because you won’t be working anyway. However, the guidance states that if your employer was paying you enhanced maternity pay, that may be recoverable under the scheme. Unfortunately, the current guidance on this is confusing, and we suggest you speak to your employer or an independent legal specialist for clarity.

There are also some great charities offering excellent advice and support if you are struggling to understand where you stand with your maternity and employment rights:

Maternity Action is a charity fighting for better maternity right. They have put together some FAQs for anyone wanting to understand their maternity rights at work and during maternity leave during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are currently experiencing a high demand for their advice line and recommend you read the FAQs before contacting them.

Pregnant then screwed is a charity set up to help women fight against being a victim of pregnancy or maternity discrimination. They have set up a Covid-19 guide to provide women with advice about work discrimination as a result of the pandemic.

 

Please note the information provided in this blog does not take into account individual employee circumstances. You should always seek expert legal advice before taking any action regarding your employment and your working rights.

 

 

UK maternity and furlough rights during covid-19

As the UK went into lockdown we all wondered about the disruption this would cause. It’s true to say that the impact has affected some more than others, but as a nation, we all breathed a sigh of relief when the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outlined the set of protective measures he would introduce under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This scheme fundamentally helps protect workers and employers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The main focus of the scheme has been the protective measure to furlough staff, intended to protect millions of UK workers at risk of losing their job. The option to furlough employees means employers can allow employees a leave of absence from work while the government pays 80% of their wages, up to a maximum of £2500 per month. This applies to employers of all sizes and is designed to save jobs and keep the economy going until the lockdown is over.

The furloughed employee is effectively protected against redundancy during the furlough period. This allows the employer to retain the employee on their books and bring them back to work once lockdown is over. The employer however, must accept that the employee will not be able to carry out any work for them during this furlough period.

With the lockdown situation happening so quickly, it left many employers and employees struggling to keep up with the pace of change. Millions of employees were confused by what furlough meant for their job security and income – and this is still true for some. The situation was and is even more unclear for pregnant women about to go on maternity leave, or those already on maternity leave.

 

WHAT DOES FURLOUGH MEAN IF I’M ALREADY ON MATERNITY LEAVE?

According to the government, if you are on maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity leave or shared parental leave, then the normal rules for maternity and other forms of parental leave and pay apply. In other words, there is no change to the maternity leave rules and you will continue to receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) up to 39 weeks.

 

WHAT DOES FURLOUGH MEAN TO ME IF I’M ABOUT TO GO ON MATERNITY LEAVE?

If you are planning to go on Statutory Maternity Leave this means you will receive 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks of SMP, while for the remaining 33 weeks, you'll receive receive £151.20 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, depending on which is lower.

It is unlikely that an employer would put you on furlough leave if you are just about to go on maternity leave, because you won’t be working anyway. However, the guidance states that if your employer was paying you enhanced maternity pay, that may be recoverable under the scheme. Unfortunately, the current guidance on this is confusing, and we suggest you speak to your employer or an independent legal specialist for clarity.

There are also some great charities offering excellent advice and support if you are struggling to understand where you stand with your maternity and employment rights:

Maternity Action is a charity fighting for better maternity right. They have put together some FAQs for anyone wanting to understand their maternity rights at work and during maternity leave during the Covid-19 pandemic. They are currently experiencing a high demand for their advice line and recommend you read the FAQs before contacting them.

Pregnant then screwed is a charity set up to help women fight against being a victim of pregnancy or maternity discrimination. They have set up a Covid-19 guide to provide women with advice about work discrimination as a result of the pandemic.

 

Please note the information provided in this blog does not take into account individual employee circumstances. You should always seek expert legal advice before taking any action regarding your employment and your working rights.