Improving the process for maternity leave


29 / 01 / 2009

  • SHA region
  • The organisation
  • What we did and why
  • How we did it
  • The results and next steps
  • Contact details and further information
  • SHA region

    NHS South West

    The organisation

    Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust provides a full range of acute and general hospital services to over 460,000 people in Plymouth, east Cornwall and south west Devon. This includes cancer care, orthopaedics, paediatrics, plastic and reconstructive surgery and ear, nose and throat services. A range of highly specialist treatments is also offered, such as, heart surgery, cardiology services, kidney transplants, neurosurgery and pancreatic surgery to a population of up to two million people across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.

    The trust is one of the largest acute healthcare providers in the country, with an annual budget of £218 million, around 1,000 beds for inpatients and day case patients and over 6390 staff.

    Plymouth Hospitals is also a teaching trust in partnership with the Peninsula Medical School.

    What we did and why

    A member of the recruitment team met individually with employees wishing to take maternity leave to discuss their rights and responsibilities. Whilst the majority of employees were seen, there were instances where individuals had already given birth but remained unaware that their maternity pay had not yet commenced - this often led to unnecessary queries and (in some instances) complaints from staff who thought they had been underpaid.

    The recruitment team found this to be an inefficient and time consuming process. Therefore, monthly maternity presentations were introduced as a personalised way of making sure that staff were both informed about their rights and given an opportunity to ask questions about their personal circumstances.

    How we did it

    The monthly presentations have become mandatory for all expectant employees and are now incorporated into the trust's maternity leave policy.

    A database is maintained to keep a record of all those that have attended the presentations so that these names can be matched against personnel records.

    A HR assistant facilitates the presentations and provides information on:

    • the employee's rights and responsibilities; and
    • the trust's obligation towards the employee, including health and safety during and after pregnancy.

    The trust's carer coordinator also attends the presentation to provide an overview on childcare, financial support, benefits and flexible working options. An information pack is also handed out, containing information on:

    • maternity rights;
    • 'keep-in-touch' (a monthly catch up session coordinated by the carer coordinator);
    • flexible working; and
    • childcare options.

    The carer coordinator delivers a separate presentation for managers to make sure that they are aware and understand their obligations and the rights of their employees during this period.

    Three-six months after giving birth, the employee is invited to visit the trust with their baby. This is an opportunity to discuss any issues or anxieties about returning to work and to discuss any changes which may have taken place at the trust during their absence. The carer coordinator also emails the weekly trust newsletter and any information about developments within the organisation.

    With the introduction of up to 10 'keep in touch' (KIT) days, managers are advised that KIT days may be given in the event of study days, courses, mandatory training or team meetings, if the employee is happy to attend whilst on maternity leave.

    The results and next steps

    Achieving Tommy's accreditation

    • Plymouth Hospitals was the first NHS trust nationally to be awarded a Tommy's Accreditation. Tommy's* is a national baby's charity set up to prevent miscarriage, premature birth and still birth.
    • To become a member of the Tommy's pregnancy accreditation programme the trust had to meet certain criteria, including making sure that all employees enjoy a healthy and productive working pregnancy.
    • Tommy's supply a guide, which is given to all employees and managers who attend the presentations.


    Breastfeeding facilities are available for employees returning from maternity leave within the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where refrigeration facilities and breast pumps are available for use.

    Returning to work

    • From November 2006 - March 2007 approx 213 employees took maternity leave and approx 80 per cent of these employees returned to work on a full or part time basis.
    • To ensure all employees receive equal access under gender equality requirements, a database is held within the HR department to ensure all flexible working requests are recorded to form part of the monitoring process.
    • All requests for flexible working from employees returning from maternity leave are considered in line with the needs of the service and a set procedure is followed according to the trust's flexible working policy.

    Contact details and further information

    Jayne Middleman, Staff Support Coordinator at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust

    July 2007

    *Tommy's operate a Pregnancy Accreditation Programme which is the only scheme of its kind in the UK. The scheme is supported by the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Health and Safety Executive.

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