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How I manage maternity rights in my business

Employer Liz Ludden of Dukes and Duchesses day nursery shares her insight

Making sure employees remain happy and healthy and get their full maternity rights remain top priorities for award-winning day nursery Dukes and Duchesses in Liverpool. Its owner, Liz Ludden, explains how she does it.

Name: Liz Ludden, founder and owner

Business: Dukes and Duchesses, multi award-winning day nursery for babies and young children

Background: Early years teacher Liz Ludden opened Dukes and Duchesses in October 2003 to provide high-quality childcare in the heart of Liverpool city centre for up to 80 children. The nursery employs ten admin and support staff and 25 highly qualified childcare professionals. It has an outstanding Ofsted rating.

How many of your staff have been on maternity leave?

Liz Ludden (LL): “Since we started, probably more than 20 and all but two of those returned to work here after their maternity leave, some later moving on. I’ve also been on maternity leave twice since starting the nursery; I myself have four children.”

Has that helped to shape your approach to maternity leave?

LL: “It’s given me first-hand experience of the challenges staff face, but I fully believe that new mothers, pregnant women and their babies need protecting. In previous jobs I was always well supported when pregnant and I was determined to ensure that was the case here. We celebrate pregnancy here, younger staff return with new skills and useful experience. Women who work elsewhere can be anxious about having to tell their boss they’re pregnant.”

Do some business owners still fear the implications?

LL: “Some do, I’m sure, but if managed well, there need not be any negative impact. In fact, it can help you to build a talented, committed team. Firstly, you must know what rights your employees have when pregnant or as a new mother. You need good HR policies.

“It takes organisation and effective planning – you can’t leave arranging cover too late. Often women want to return part time after having a baby, so you must also plan for that. We once had seven staff members on maternity leave at the same time – we still laugh about it. We celebrate pregnancies here.”

What about supporting staff?

LL: “It’s essential – throughout the pregnancy, after the child is born and when the mother returns to work, which presents other challenges. ‘Keep In Touch’ days are key, because they enable staff on maternity leave to still feel part of things. Sometimes you have to remind pregnant staff not to overdo it, especially if there’s any physical aspect to their role.”

What about costs?

LL: “That hasn’t been an issue for us. We pay maternity pay and it comes off future National Insurance contributions. Obviously, we have to pay other people to provide cover, but that doesn’t create any additional cost. There aren’t any major recruitment costs either. Having notice provides plenty of time to find cover. Speaking to other nurseries has helped us to find good people who are looking for work.”

What if a business isn’t up to speed on maternity rights?

LL: “Find out – it’s vital. There’s a moral responsibility to the health of the mother and child, but you could face legal action if you get it wrong. When I started my business, I got advice from a local HR consultant – and still do. One of your staff might be adopting; they might be in a same-sex relationship; they may want to share parental leave rights. You need to know what you need to do. And rules change all the time, so your knowledge must be updated continually. Carrying out risk assessments is crucial. Get help if you lack knowledge.”

Read more:

Everyday workplace policies

Related articles:

Maternity and paternity rights: how does the UK measure up?

Next step:

HSBC’s Parental Leave Support Package