HR Rebecca Smith · 24 July 2015
Management of maternity leave troubles small businesses
A new report from EHRC and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS)looked into pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination and disadvantage in the workplace. It found that small businesses were less likely to be aware of KIT days and more likely to report difficulties managing pregnancy and maternity issues across a range of related areas. The report was based on interviews with 3, 034 employers and 3, 254 mothers, and found that small businesses in particular were struggling to cope with the management of maternity leave. Companies of this sizewere most likely to report troubles managing pregnancy and maternity issues across numerous areas such as enhanced protection from redundancy during ordinary maternity leave, accumulation of annual leave during maternity leave, uncertainty of whether the individuals will return to work and additional maternity leave. From all the businesses surveys, 28 per cent found enhanced protection from redundancy unreasonable, while 13 per cent said it was difficult to implement. A quarter thought the accumulation of annual leave during maternity leave was unreasonable, while nearly a fifth said it was difficult to facilitate. The uncertainty of knowing whether employees would return to work was also felt tricky to cope with according to a quarter of businesses, and 16 per cent felt additional maternity leave was difficult to arrange. Cover for the position was also an issue 18 per cent believed this was tough to arrange. The details from the report indicated that communication was a cause of many of the ongoing issues. The level of contact employers had with their workers on maternity leave varied significantly between different types of workplace. Small private sector employees were much less likely to have either formal or informal contact with employees on maternity leave, or be aware of KIT (Keeping In Touch) days. Where contact was made by smaller employers, it was more likely to have consisted of checking on the welfare of the mother and baby. There was also confusion as to what would be regarded as appreciated contact three in ten employers felt reaching out to those on maternity leave would be interpreted as putting them under pressure to return to work sooner. On the flip side, the mostcommon problem reported from those on maternity leave was too little contact from their employers (26 per cent said this was the case). KIT days were flagged up as an area small employers were not particularly aware of while 97 per cent of large employers and 86 per cent of medium firms knew about KIT days, this dropped to 53 per cent of small employers. Similarly, larger companies were more likely to use KIT days than smaller employers 88 per cent, compared to 21 per cent.
ABOUT THE EXPERTRebecca Smith
Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.