An employee's contract of employment continues throughout her 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave (SML) unless either you or the employee expressly ends it or it expires.
During SML an employee has a statutory right to continue to benefit from all the terms and conditions of her employment that would have applied to her had she been at work.
The only exceptions are terms relating to wages or salary - though you must pay her statutory maternity pay if she's eligible. See maternity pay.
Examples of contractual terms and conditions that continue during SML include:
- gym membership
- participation in share schemes
- reimbursement of professional subscriptions
- the use of a company car or mobile phone (unless provided for business use only)
- childcare vouchers
- contractual annual leave (any annual leave the employee receives above the minimum 5.6 weeks per annum)
Whether or not you should pay a bonus to an employee on SML depends on the type of bonus and the terms of the particular bonus scheme. You should ensure that you do not withhold any bonus simply because the employee is pregnant or is on maternity leave.
An employee on SML may receive contractual pay if she works on a keeping-in-touch day - see contact and work during maternity leave.
Continuous employment, length of service and maternity leave
SML doesn't break continuity of employment.
This means the entire SML period counts towards an employee's period of continuous employment when determining eligibility for other statutory employment rights, eg the right to a redundancy payment.
Both ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave count for assessing seniority and personal length-of-service payments, such as pay increments, under their contracts of employment.