skip to primary navigationskip to content

PI Guidance on Maternity Leave

Information and Advice about Maternity Policy and arrangements

Guidance for Principal Investigators in the School of Technology


1. Introduction

All staff are entitled to receive the same maternity benefits regardless of the source of funding for their post.  Details of maternity provisions are set out in the maternity policy.

As PIs you will be providing support to your research staff taking maternity leave.  This document provides information on maternity leave entitlements and processes so that you can make appropriate plans with your researchers.


2. Key Maternity Policy provisions

  • The University’s maternity leave policy applies to all female employees, regardless of their length of service and entitlement to statutory maternity benefits.
  • A pregnant researcher is entitled to take paid time off to attend ante-natal appointments and/or classes.
  • The maximum duration of maternity leave she can take is 52 weeks and she decides how long she wishes to take.  She confirms when she will be starting maternity leave by completing a maternity application form (CHRIS/60) once she receives her MATB1 form from her GP/midwife 15 weeks before the expected week of childbirth (EWC).
  • Maternity leave can start no earlier than 11 weeks before the EWC and no later than the date the child is born.  It must extend at minimum for at least two weeks after the birth (this is a legal requirement).
  • If the researcher is ill with a pregnancy-related illness at the beginning of the 4th week before the EWC or at any time from then until she goes on maternity leave this will automatically trigger the start of her maternity leave.
  • During maternity leave she receives maternity pay, starting from her first day of leave, as follows:

-       18 weeks' paid leave at her normal rate of pay.

-       21 weeks' Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) (if entitled).

-       13 weeks unpaid leave

*if her fixed term contract ends during any point of her maternity leave she is entitled to receive statutory maternity pay only.

**if she does not wish to return to work following maternity leave and has taken full pay for 18 weeks then  this payment, minus Statutory Maternity pay, needs to be repaid. If she returns to work for three months or more and then resigns or if her fixed term contract ends during this time then this payment will not be reclaimed.

  • HR Division contacts all employees on maternity leave approximately 20 weeks into their leave to remind them that if they wish to return early they should give 8 weeks’ notice of their return to work.  No notice needs to be given if the researcher is intending to return at the end of the 52-week period, although we encourage staff to confirm this.
  • Annual leave accrues as normal during maternity leave.  The researcher can take this from the end of her maternity leave period (thus delaying her return to work), up to within three months of returning to work.
  • Pension benefits (USS) accrue during any period of paid maternity leave as if the researcher was at work.  During the unpaid leave part of maternity leave her membership of the pension scheme is suspended and she will not receive any service credits.  She can, however, choose to buy in this service on her return to work.
  • The researcher’s contract will continue and her continuity of service is maintained during maternity leave except when her fixed term contract ends during her maternity leave period (see Annex attached).
  • The researcher may, if she wishes, with the agreement of her Head of Department, carry out up to 10 days' work during her maternity leave (after the 2 weeks’ mandatory leave period following childbirth) without bringing her maternity leave to an end. These days are known as keeping-in-touch days (KIT).  In line with the legislation, any work carried out on any KIT day constitutes a full day's work in terms of the total entitlement of 10 days.  The work done could include training, attending meetings etc, and does not extend the period of maternity leave.  She will receive full pay for the hours worked during her KIT day.  However, you cannot oblige her to do any work during her maternity leave, nor is she entitled to be offered any work to do; the amount and type of work to be done is subject to the agreement of both parties


3. Protection of pregnant employees

  • When your Researcher advises you that she is pregnant, she should be referred to the Departmental Safety Officer so that they can carry out a risk assessment, to ensure the health and safety of mother and baby.  Information on this can be found at Risk Assessment for Expectant and Nursing Mothers.
  • Employees are entitled not to be subjected to any type of unfavourable treatment because of their pregnancy or maternity. Any such treatment would be considered direct discrimination and is unlawful.


4. How you can provide support

  • Once you have been informed by your employee that she is pregnant please refer her to your Departmental Administrator/Research Office and they will discuss the maternity procedure in more detail and also direct her to the maternity policy on the HR Division website.
  • Ask your researcher to let you know her plans for taking and returning from leave and review with her how her work can be taken forward while she is away. 
  • Contact the external sponsor to inform them that your researcher is taking maternity leave (this is your responsibility).  It is assumed the sponsor will bear the full cost, less maternity pay recovered from the Government (Department of Work and Pensions), of offering maternity leave in line with the University’s policy. The sponsor’s maternity provision should be checked to see whether, for example, they will provide additional funding to make a substitute appointment to compensate for the whole, or part, of a period of paid maternity leave, or extend the duration of a grant for a period of leave equivalent to the maternity leave taken by the researcher so that the project can be completed.
  • The School Finance Manager has access to a maternity calculator which gives an approximate cost of the maternity leave and potential SMP reclaim.  (The University pays out Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) which is usually at the rate of 6 weeks at 90% of full pay and 33 weeks at the lower SMP rate (currently £135.45).  The total SMP paid is then later repaid by the Government, currently at the rate of 92%.
  • The School Finance Manager can also advise on any other financial support available should funding the researcher’s salary from the grant be a problem, which may include the School’s strategic or contingency funds.
  • If your researcher is ill at any time during her pregnancy with a pregnancy-related illness, discuss with her and review with your Departmental Administrator making a referral to OHS.  (Please note, as stated above, that if she is sick with a pregnancy-related illness from the beginning of the 4th week before her EWC until taking maternity leave then this will trigger the start of her maternity leave.)


5. Reasonable contact

You can maintain reasonable contact with the researcher while she is on maternity leave. At later stages of her leave this contact could include discussion about her plans to return to work or about any application that she is considering for flexible working arrangements on her return to work.

Please note that staff on maternity leave have the right to be consulted over other matters, for example any proposed redundancies or reorganisation, and to be given information about pay rises, bonuses and internal vacancies (including promotion opportunities).


6. Returning to work after maternity leave and working options available

The researcher may ask to return to work on a part-time basis or to make a graduated return to full-time hours over a period of up to a year. Either of these arrangements would need to be discussed in detail and agreed formally.

Any arrangements will be subject to the needs of the project on which she is employed and the willingness of the sponsor to agree to these flexible arrangements.  Further details on flexible working and for graduated return to work are provided on the HR Division website.

Please note that a researcher  who returns after maternity leave has the legal right to return to the job she occupied prior to her maternity leave or in certain circumstances where this is not possible to a suitable alternative job on similar terms and conditions to her previous role.


7. Summary

  • Ensure that all information regarding maternity leave entitlement is provided to the researcher in a timely way once she has informed you that she will be going on maternity leave.
  • Ensure that the necessary risk assessment is carried out; if necessary, the researcher may need to be removed from any job duties that might pose a risk to her health or safety.
  • Ensure that the researcher is referred to website information and the departmental HR team for information on the maternity policy and to sources of further support.
  • Discuss her leave plans and arrange for cover and funding of her work while she is away, as appropriate.
  • Consider funding arrangements during the time period of maternity leave and whether any replacement should be sought.
  • Contact your Departmental Administrator/Research Office or your HR Schools team if you have any queries or concerns.


Aug 2014