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Maternity Leave

Legislation sets out statutory minimum leave entitlements. Agreements between employers and employees may provide for better arrangements than the statutory minimum. The statutory entitlements are as follows:

The law requires that an employee take a minimum of two weeks’ (four weeks for those who work in factories) maternity leave immediately following the birth.

All pregnant employees are entitled to take up to one year’s (52 weeks’) maternity leave, regardless of length of service with the employer. This is a single continuous period and is made up of:

  • 26 weeks’ Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) – during which the contract of employment continues, and during which the employee must continue to receive all her contractual benefits except (unless agreed otherwise) wages or salary  

             and

  • 26 weeks’ Additional Maternity Leave (AML) – during which the contract of employment continues, but only certain terms of that contract apply.  However, changes introduced from 6th April 2008 will mean that a woman whose expected week of childbirth is on or after 5th October 2008 will be entiteld to all normal contractual benefits except (unless agreed otherwise) wages or salary  during Additional Maternity Leave as well as Ordinary Maternity Leave.  AML follows OML and there must be no gap between the two.

Employees

Pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace

Employers

Maternity leave and pay

See:
  • Family-Friendly Policies
  • Maternity Suspension

    Employers have a duty to carry out a Risk Assessment for a pregnant employee to assess and control risks to the mother and her unborn child.  If the risk assessment identifies any specific risks that cannot be avoided and no adjustments can be made or suitable alternative work found, the employee may be suspended from work on full pay to protect her and her unborn child.

    Suspension from work on medical or maternity grounds

    Maximum Working Week

    Under the Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 (as amended), qualifying workers should not work more than an average of 48 hours per week over a 17-week period (this period can be extended in certain circumstances). However, workers can choose to agree to work more than the 48-hour average weekly limit. If they do so the agreement must be in writing. For those above school leaving age and under 18 the maximum is 40 hours/week and there is no provision for opting out.

    See:
  • Working Time Regulations
  • Mediation

    In mediation the parties to an industrial dispute agree, usually with Agency assistance, joint terms of reference to be put to an independent mediator or mediation panel. The Agency appoints a mediator from its list of suitable independent persons. The mediator (acting alone or chairing a panel) considers written and oral submissions of the parties to the dispute. The mediator makes formal, non-binding, proposals or recommendations intended to provide the parties with a basis for settlement of the dispute.

    See:
  • Mediation Explained
  • Medical Report – Ill Health Absence

    When dealing with a case of ill health absence an employer may seek (with the employee’s permission) a report from the employee's General Practicioner or Company medical advisor to gain further information on the employee’s condition.  This information can be used to facilitate the employee’s return to work through, for example, the making of any adjustments as recommended by the medical advisor.  Such information is covered by Data Protection Legislation.

    See:
  • Advice on Managing Sickness Absence
  • Migrant Workers - Employing Foreign Nationals

    The Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 makes it a criminal offence to employ a person who is not legally entitled to live or work in the United Kingdom. There are four categories of foreign national workers:

    1. Those who are nationals of member states within the European Economic Area who are free to live and work in any other member state within the EEA, citizens of  Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria; Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania; Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
    2. Those who are nationals of member states which are referred to as Accession States (commonly referred to as the A8), i.e. Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia who are now entitled to work in Northern Ireland.
    3. Those who are nationals of countries outside the EEA and who are required to have a Permit to work in the UK.

    NB. The Immigration Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 requires an employer to confirm a potential employee's right to work in the United Kingdom. This has changed some of the applications above.

    Further guidance on this subject is available from the Border and Immigration division of the Home Office at http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/ or the Employers Helpline on 0845 010 6677. Practical guidance to assist employer determine whether they are employing migrant workers legally is available at www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk. In addition, the Labour Relations Agency provides a seminar on the ‘Employment Rights of Migrant Workers’ which is aimed specifically at employers and can be booked on-line here.

    While employers have a responsibility to ensure that they check the eligibility of individuals for working in the UK to avoid illegal working, it is also important that employers do not discriminate in this process, e.g. if an employer only asks applicants who they feel appear to be foreign nationals to provide evidence of their eligibility to work in the UK he could face claims of racial discrimination – i.e. treating persons less favourably because of their nationality/race.

    The Home Office has published literature to assist employers with recent changes to the UK immigration system. A further guide, An employer's guide to acceptable right to work documents, has been produced. The guide explains document checks which employers should conduct in order to establish whether an individual can legally carry out the work being offered and it provides examples of accepted documents for proving the right to work.

    The Home Office has also produced a Right to Work Checklist and a Statutory Excuse Checksheet to assist employers with the recruitment process, along with a list of frequently asked questions about the illegal working civil penalty scheme.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/employers-illegal-working-penalties#guidance-and-codes-of-practice

    Minimum Wage

    From 1 April 2018 the minimum rates of pay will be:

    • National Living Wage (25 years old and over) - £7.83 per hour
    • £7.38 per hour - 21-24 yrs old
    • £5.90 per hour 18 - 20 yrs old
    • £4.20 per hour - 16-17 yrs old
    • £3.70 for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over who are in the first year of apprenticeship.

     The rates will change every April .

    Employers

    National minimum wage - who must be paid the national minimum wage

    Employees 

    see at National Minimum Wage 

    Agricultural Wage Rates

    These rates are established by the Agricultural Wages Board which was constituted in 1977 and meets each year to review rates of pay and other conditions for agricultural workers. They are reviewed annually.

    Agricultural Wages Board Agricultural Wages Board

    Minimum Workplace Temperatures

    The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1993 lay down particular requirements for most aspects of the working environment. Regulation 7 of these deals specifically with the temperature of indoor workplaces and states that:

    "During working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings shall be reasonable."

    However, the application of the regulation depends on the nature of the workplace, i.e. a bakery, a cold store, an office, a warehouse.

    In general terms it states that minimum temperatures should be:

    Where no physical effort is required – 16C/60.8F

    Where physical effort is required – 13C/55.4F

    For further information check the Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland's website on www.hseni.gov.uk

    Mobility Clauses

    A clause which states that an employee may be required to work at one or more of an employer’s locations, or transfer to another location is usually referred to as a Mobility Clause.   An employer is obliged within the Written Statement of Employment Particulars, to state where an employee’s place of work is and if they are required to work at various places, should state where those locations are.

    See:
  • Written Statements of Employment Particulars
  • Telephone Enquiry Point

    The Agency’s Enquiry Point is available to employers, employees, trade unions and others. Enquiry Point advisors provide information and advice on a wide range of employment matters. The Enquiry Point is also an important contact point for identifying circumstances, or clients, who would benefit from being referred to other Agency services.

    The Enquiry Point provides clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice to assist the caller in resolving issues in the workplace.

    While the advisors cannot provide a legal opinion they can help callers gain a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities as well as identifying possible options to help resolve their issues.

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