One of my employees has just told me she is pregnant and says I have to give her a full year off work. Is this true, and do I have to pay her for all that time as well?
Your employee is correct, she is entitled to up to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave, but this leave is not necessarily paid leave. You only have to pay her Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) while she is on maternity leave if she has been on your payroll for at least 26 weeks, including the 15th week before the baby is due. The SMP also doesn’t last for the full 52 weeks, it currently can only be paid for up to 39 weeks. This has increased from 26 weeks for babies due after 31 March 2007. The SMP is also not paid at the employee’s full wage rate. The first six weeks are paid at 90% of her average weekly wage and the rest of the period is paid at a flat rate of £112.75 (from 6 April 2007). As a small employer, you can claim back from the Taxman all the SMP you payout, plus an extra 4.5% as compensation for the employer’s class 1 NIC you have to pay on the SMP.