Q: I have a small business I want to expand. Currently only family members work for me and what bothers me about expansion is employee rights, particularly when it comes to taking on someone who might get pregnant. Apart from the usual holidays, can you outline what other rights to leave my employees may have ?
A: All employees have a statutory right to maternity, paternity and adoption paid leave. Pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for ante-natal care and can take up to 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave starting any time after 11 weeks prior to the due birth date.
New mums must take a minimum of two weeks off after the birth of their child or, in the case of a factory worker, 4 weeks.
As an employer you would not have to pay an employee whilst they are on maternity leave, because they will be able to claim statutory maternity pay (SMP) for 39 weeks. You have a legal obligation to keep their job open under the same terms and conditions they enjoyed previously.
A related requirement is that parents and carers are allowed unpaid leave for reasonable time off to deal with an emergency involving a dependent. Emergency leave also includes bereavement leave to attend a dependant’s funeral. Parents with young, disabled or recently adopted children also have certain further rights to unpaid leave.
Other instances where employees have a statutory right to either paid or unpaid leave include carrying out public services such as acting as a magistrate, or attending a training course if say you appointed them as a first aider.
Before taking on any new employees it would be advisable to seek legal advice about your employee contracts and have a clear policy on sick leave, disability leave and discretionary leave. This should include procedures that employees must follow when requesting any leave.