SOAS University of London

Human Resources

Maternity Procedure


1. Introduction

The School of Oriental and African Studies recognises its responsibilities towards pregnant employees and the importance of maintaining the competitive advantage of the organisation by retaining skilled and valued employees through their child rearing years. The School is committed to encouraging employees to return to work following a period of Maternity Leave by supporting employees through pregnancy, ensuring that all statutory entitlements are provided and offering enhanced maternity benefits where applicable. This policy applies to all female employees and aims to inform them of their entitlement to contractual and statutory maternity rights, and to ensure that those rights are understood.

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2. Legal Requirements

Current UK legislation provides pregnant employees with six separate rights, each of which has its own qualifying rules:

  • the right to time off for antenatal care;
  • the right to receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), or Maternity Allowance, if eligible;
  • the right to 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave with the preservation of all contractual benefits (except remuneration) and the right to return to work;
  • the right not to be dismissed on the grounds of pregnancy, irrespective of the number of hours an employee works or her length of service;
  • the right to be moved to other work or suspended on full pay, if the employee’s current job has a perceived health risk to either her or the baby.

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2.1 Other related Policies and Guidelines

  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992
  • Employee Relations Act 1999
  • Employment Rights Act 1996
  • Maternity (Compulsory Leave) Regulations 199
  • Social Security and Benefits Act 1992
  • Parental Leave Directive
  • Pregnant Workers Directive
  • Maternity and Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2002
  • Work and Families Act 2006
  • Leave Management Guidelines
  • Equal Opportunities Policy
  • Attendance and Sickness Management Policy
  • Flexible Work Guidelines
  • Frequently Asked Maternity, Paternity and Parental Leave Questions Booklet

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3. Maternity Procedures

3.1 Maternity Procedures

All female employees qualify for a minimum of 52 weeks Maternity Leave, but not all employees will qualify for Maternity Pay. Maternity Leave entitlements are dealt with in Section 4 and Maternity Pay entitlements in Section 6 of this Policy.

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3.2 Notification Requirements

In order to qualify for maternity benefits all employees are required to follow the appropriate notification procedures. Failure to follow the correct notification procedure may forfeit eligibility to maternity pay or leave. The employee should notify her line manager and Human Resources (HR), in writing, (using the Maternity Leave Notification Form) as soon as is reasonably practicable and no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC), that:

a. she is pregnant;
b. the expected week of childbirth;
c. the date that she wishes to start Maternity Leave - which can be any
   date/day (she can change her mind by giving 28 days notice in writing);
d. whether or not she intends to return to work following maternity leave

Confirmation of pregnancy and expected date of childbirth should also be provided in the form of a doctor’s or midwife’s certificate, namely Form MATB1, which is given at approximately 14 weeks before the EWC, and which should be sent to HR.  The employee should not, therefore, wait for her MATB1 Certificate before submitting the application for maternity leave. Failure to give the required notice and produce a MATB1 certificate may affect entitlements to Maternity Leave and/or Maternity Pay. Within 28 days of receiving notification HR will notify the employee of the date her Maternity Leave will start and end and her maternity pay entitlement.

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3.3 Health and Safety

The School is committed to protecting the health and safety at work of all employees and others, including new and expectant mothers. Due to health and safety reasons, it is imperative that the employee upon becoming aware that she is pregnant, that she informs the School and her manager, in order for the School to confirm that is still safe for her to continue in her existing role during her pregnancy. The employee will continue to be employed in her existing role unless a risk assessment has identified that her job as potentially unsuitable for her because it involves risks to the employee or her unborn child. If the employee or her unborn child is considered at risk, then we will work with the employee to decide whether the School can alter her role so as to eliminate whatever risks have been identified. If this is not possible the employee will be unable to continue her job. Instead the School will either find the employee a suitable alternative job at an equivalent grade and rate of pay, or if there is no alternative work, the employee will be suspended and place on paid leave until either the risk no longer exists or her maternity leave starts, whichever happens first.

In order to assess workplace risks, the employee should complete the  Maternity Risk Assessment Form (pdf; 364kb)   for New and Expectant Mothers in discussion with their line manager (see Appendix 1) to ensure their health and safety and that of their unborn child. If any concerns are identified regarding workplace risks, the employee or their line manager should contact the Health and Safety Officers, Michael Smith or Heidi Alderton, at for advice on possible solutions.

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3.4 Antenatal Care

All pregnant employees, regardless of length of service or hours worked, have the right to time off to attend antenatal appointments as advised by a doctor, registered midwife or registered health visitor. Antenatal appointments, where possible, should be arranged at the start or end of the working day. SOAS recognises that this may not always be possible. Where practical, at least one week’s advance notice of the proposed antenatal appointment should be given to the line manager; as well as an estimation of how long the member of staff will be absent (including travelling time). The line manager may, at any time, request to see the appointment card. This time off will be paid at the employee’s normal rate of pay provided the School has been notified in advance of the appointment and the above procedures have been followed.

Antenatal care includes appointments with a GP or midwife, scans or tests at hospitals and other appointments made on the recommendation of the employee’s GP or midwife, including relaxation and parent craft classes.

Maternity Leave provisions are set down in current legislation. The Employment Relations Act 1999 sets out the framework and provides entitlement to three different kinds of Maternity Leave:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML)
  • Additional Maternity Leave (AML)
  • Compulsory Maternity Leave (CML)

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4. Maternity Leave

4.1 Ordinary Maternity Leave

All women, regardless of length of service or hours worked have a statutory right to 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML). Ordinary Maternity Leave can commence at any time from the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC). The employee may work later than this if they are fit to do so and there is no health and safety risk involved. If, however, the employee is absent from work for a pregnancy related reason after the beginning of the fourth week before the expected week of childbirth her maternity leave period will begin automatically on the first day of her absence.

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4.2 Additional Maternity Leave

All women are entitled to an extended period of maternity leave, referred to as Additional Maternity Leave (AML)  Additional Maternity Leave will commence immediately after the Ordinary Maternity Leave period ends and continue for a further 26 weeks.

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4.3 Compulsory Maternity Leave

All employees are required, by law to take at least two weeks’ Maternity Leave after the birth of the baby. This is known as the Compulsory Maternity Leave period.

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4.4 Contractual Obligations

During the first 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave the contract and many contractual benefits will continue. During any Additional Maternity Leave period the contract continues to exist and employees will continue to have the benefit of the organisation’s duty of trust and confidence and the terms and conditions of employment relating to:

  •  notice of termination
  • compensation in the event of redundancy
  • disciplinary or grievance procedures

 There are certain rules which apply to employees on Maternity Leave, with regards to redundancy, which are outlined in the School’s Redundancy Policy.

Employees will be bound, during this period, by their duty of good faith to the organisation and any terms and conditions relating to:

  • notice of termination
  • disclosure of confidential information
  • participation in any other business
  • disclosure of interest
  •  acceptance of gifts or other benefits
  • whistleblowing

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4.5 Start of Maternity Leave

An employee can work up to the birth, if this does not contravene health and safety regulations. The organisation may request a doctor’s certificate certifying that the employee is fit to continue to work. Maternity Leave and pay can commence from the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth.

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5. Return To Work

5.1 Right to return to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave

All employees have the right to return to their former position on terms and conditions no less favourable than would have been applicable if they were not on a period of Maternity Leave. Employees may return to work at any time during or at the end of the 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave, (but after the Compulsory Maternity Leave period), providing at least 8 weeks notice is given, in writing.

The employee is entitled to benefit from any terms and conditions of employment, which would apply if she were not absent for maternity reasons. Employees will be entitled to receive the normal annual increment on her scale at the usual date in accordance with her contract of employment.

If the employee does not give 8 weeks’ notice of her intention to return to work, the School is entitled to postpone the employees return until 8 weeks’ notice has elapsed from the time notice was given, (or the date on which the employee attempted to return if no notice was given) or until the date on which the employee is otherwise due to return, whichever is sooner.

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5.2 Right to return to work after Additional Maternity Leave

Employees who are eligible for Additional Maternity Leave may, if they choose, return to work at any time during the period of Additional Maternity Leave providing they give at least 8 weeks written notice of their intention to return to work. An employee who intends to return at the end of the Additional Maternity Leave period is not required to give any further notification.

If the employee does not give 8 weeks’ notice of her intention to return to work, the School is entitled to postpone the employees return until 8 weeks’ notice has elapsed from the time notice was given, (or the date on which the employee attempted to return if no notice was given) or until the date on which the employee is otherwise due to return, whichever is sooner.

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6. Maternity Pay

6.1 Statutory Maternity Pay

Employees will qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) in the following circumstances whether or not they intend to return to work:

  • medical evidence of pregnancy has been provided;
  • the employee has been continuously employed by the organisation for 26 consecutive weeks by the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due;
  • the employee’s “average weekly earnings” in the eight weeks up to and including the qualifying week are at least equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance (NI) purposes.

The earliest date that SMP can commence is from the 11th week before the week your baby is due, and the latest from the day following the birth.

SMP is currently six weeks’ pay at 90% of average weekly earnings with no upper limit (Higher Rate SMP) and a further 33 weeks at the Lower Rate SMP or 90% of average weekly earnings if this is less than the Lower Rate SMP. SMP is treated as earnings and therefore is subject to PAYE and NI deductions and, if applicable, pension contributions. SMP cannot commence until the employee has commenced Maternity Leave.

If the baby is born before the start of the 11th week or before the commencement of Statutory Maternity Pay then SMP will start from the day following the birth of your baby. If the baby is born before the expected week of childbirth, the employee must notify her line manager. This should normally be done within 21 days of the birth.

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6.2 Maternity Pay – Less than 26 weeks service

Women who have less than 26 weeks’ service with the School (calculated at the 15th week before expected child birth, or actual childbirth if earlier) are not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) but may be eligible for Maternity Allowance (MA) paid by the Benefits Agency.

If an employee does not have the appropriate qualifying service for SMP, the MATB1 must be sent to the HR Directorate, attached to the Maternity Leave Notification Form. The HR Directorate will check that the employee is not entitled to SMP and then produce a SMP1 form and return this, together with the MATB1, to the employee to enable her to claim appropriate benefits via the Benefits Agency.

Further information is available from the Department of Work and Pensions website:

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6.3  Occupational Maternity Pay

The School enhances the Maternity Pay for employees who have 52 weeks’ service (calculated at the 15th week before expected childbirth), who is entitled to SMP and who intends to return to work with the School at the end of their maternity leave and whose employment contract include provision for Occupational Maternity Leave and Pay. Employees who fall into this category are entitled to:

  • 39 weeks paid Maternity Leave; 18 weeks full pay including SMP; 8 weeks half pay including SMP and 13 weeks additional SMP;
  • A further 13 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave.

Employees who are eligible to take advantage of the Occupational Maternity Pay and wish to work beyond the fourth week before the expected week of confinement will be required to produce a medical certificate from her own GP certifying that she is fit to work until the date she has chose.  Should the GP require payment to provide this certificate, the School will reimburse the employee upon submission of a claim form (using the general expenses claim form available on the HR Intranet) and a receipt.

If an employee who has received Occupational Maternity Pay does not return to the work for a period of at least 3 months she will be required to refund the difference between the Occupational Maternity Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay.

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6.4  Additional Salary Payments – Return from Occupational Maternity Leave

On return from Occupational Maternity Leave an employee will receive an additional 8 weeks full pay payable over 8 months (i.e. 1 additional week’s full pay per month).  If you resign and leave before end of the 8 month period or your employment ends, the additional payment will cease on your last day of service with the School.

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6.5 Fractional and Hourly Paid Employees

Fractional and hourly-paid employees have the same entitlements as all other employee groups in relation to their rights to maternity leave (please see section 3 of this policy). Fractional and hourly paid employees have the same entitlements to Statutory Maternity Pay as all other groups of employees. For those fractional or hourly-paid employees entitled to Occupational Maternity Pay, payments will be based on a calculation of the pay they would have received had they not been on maternity leave during the 39-week period for which Occupational Maternity Pay is payable. This calculation, based on their schedule of hours, will be provided by the School/Department. When this information is passed on to HR/Payroll, the employee will be advised of the amount that she will be eligible to receive.

Fractional or hourly paid employees have the same rights as all other staff to return to the same work that they were performing prior to taking maternity leave, providing that this work is still available.

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7. Other Pay Related Issues

7.1 Miscarriage or Stillbirth

In the unfortunate event of miscarriage before the 25th week of pregnancy, i.e. earlier than the 15th week before the EWC, SMP and/or OMP  is not payable. In any unfortunate cases of stillbirth which occur at any time after the start of the 25th week of pregnancy (i.e. from the 15th week before the EWC,) SMP and/or OMP will still be payable. HR should be informed of such circumstances as soon as is reasonably possible and the effect on leave and pay arrangements will be addressed.

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7.2 Premature Birth

If the baby is born prematurely but after maternity pay has started, maternity payments will not be affected and will continue to be paid in the normal way, as set out previously.

If your baby is born before your maternity pay has started but after the qualifying week, you must, inform your employer of the birth within 3 weeks or as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter. You will then receive the SMP or OMP due to you but the pay period will now be from the day following the birth of your baby.

If your baby is born before or during the qualifying week, within 3 weeks of the birth, you must give written evidence that you were away from work because of your baby’s birth – the baby’s birth certificate will do. You must also still provide your employer with medical evidence of the date the baby was due to be born. Evidence of both the expected date and the actual date of birth can be provided together on part B of the maternity certificate (form MATB1) issued by your doctor or midwife. You must do this within 3 weeks of the baby’s birth.  You will then receive the SMP or OMP due to you but the pay period will now be from the day following the birth of your baby.

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7.3 Keeping In Touch (KIT) Days

SOAS encourages employees on Maternity Leave, who intend to return to work, to keep in contact with their department.  The line manager is also entitled to make reasonable contact with the employee. Therefore, you may undertake up to 10 days work (except during the first two weeks after childbirth) during your maternity leave without losing maternity pay or bringing your leave to an end. These are known as ‘Keeping in Touch (KIT) Days, and are not limited to your usual job and could be used for other purposes such as training or to attend particular events/meetings.  These KIT days, including what you will be doing, should be agreed in advance (where possible) with your line manager.   

If you have entered into your Occupational Half Pay, Statutory or Unpaid Maternity Pay/Leave period and use any of your KIT days, you will be paid at your normal contractual rate.
Any work carried out on a day will count as a whole working day e.g. if you attend work for a one hour meeting, this will count as one of the 10 days available.

Please note that this provision is not intended to create any obligation whilst you are on maternity leave to take part in KIT days, nor is there any obligation on SOAS/your department to provide them.

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7.4 Pensions

Employees who are in the Pension Scheme, (and in accordance with the scheme rules in force at the time of payment of Maternity Pay) pension contributions will continue to be deducted during the paid Maternity Pay period. Contributions will be paid on pay actually received, and full pensionable service will accrue.  During unpaid Maternity Leave employees are not required to pay contributions to the Scheme, although the employee may wish to do so in order to avoid a break in pensionable service. During unpaid Maternity Leave the employee will remain a member of the Scheme for the purposes of the lump sum death benefit.

The period when no contributions are made will not count towards final pensionable service.

If the employee does not return to work after a period of Maternity Leave, they will be treated as leaving the scheme on the last day contributions were paid.

In the event that you decide to pay the employee's superannuation contributions during the period of your unpaid leave entitlement, the School will pay the employer's contributions.

For further information and to discuss pension arrangements for the unpaid period of additional maternity leave please contact the Payroll and Pensions Manager before you commence maternity leave.

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7.5 Annual Leave Entitlement

Annual leave continues to accrue at your contractual rate during your paid maternity period i.e. 39 weeks. For the additional 13 weeks unpaid maternity leave, you will accrue leave at the Working Time Directive rate (pro rata if you work part-time or take less than 13 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave).  

It may be advantageous for the employee to take most of her annual leave entitlement in one of the following ways:

  • take the accrued leave at the end of the maternity leave period, therefore the employee returns to their contractual salary before actually returning to work. If the employee intends to do this she must agree it with her line manager and HR at least 8 weeks before the end of her Maternity Leave period.
  • Elect to be paid for all or part of this leave on return to work.  However, you can only carry forward a maximum of 5 days leave.

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7.6  Probationary Period

If an employee commences Maternity Leave before satisfactorily completing her probation period, the probation will continue after her return in order to complete the full contractual probationary period.

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8. Other Related Issues

8.1 Pregnancy related sickness

If an employee is sick during her pregnancy before she starts her maternity leave, the normal rules relating to notification procedures, medical certification, sick leave and sick pay entitlements, will apply.

Where the employee is absent from work due to a pregnancy related illness at any time after the start of the 4th week before her child is due, the School reserves the right to require the employee to start her maternity leave immediately. All other sickness will be dealt with under the School’s attendance and sickness management policy.

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8.2 Flexible Work

Employees who wish to vary their working pattern on return from maternity leave have the right to request flexible working pattern. All request will be considered by the School and where possible accommodated. Please refer to the Flexible Working Guidelines for Staff for further information.

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