The Diocese of Oxford supports all office holders who would like to exercise their right to take maternity, paternity, shared parental, adoption leave or time off to care for dependents.
It is our intent to provide a fair, consistent and effective application of these provisions.
About this policy
We are looking to ensure that office holders are clear about entitlements to:
- Maternity leave,
- maternity pay,
- the terms that apply after maternity leave, and
- the process for arrangements to do with maternity.
The Diocese recognises and respects the rights of expectant and recent mothers taking time away from their ministry in connection with their maternity and childbirth and will not be subjected to a detriment for exercising this, or for seeking to do so.
This policy does not form part of the clergy Statement of Particulars. We may amend this policy at any time at our discretion.
The Diocese follows the Archbishops’ Council guidance on policies to support clergy who become parents – which are more generous than the statutory provisions. The maternity leave section applies to all office holders whilst the maternity pay section applies only to stipendiary clergy who minister within the Diocese of Oxford.
The following key definitions are used in this policy:
- Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC): the week, starting on a Sunday, in which the office holder’s doctor or midwife expects the mother to give birth.
- Childbirth: the birth of a living child or the birth of a child whether living or dead after 24 weeks of pregnancy
- EMP: Enhanced Maternity Pay (Diocesan Enhanced Scheme).
- SMP: Statutory Maternity Pay
Maternity leave is the right for office holders and self-supporting ministers (SSMs) to take up to 52 weeks of leave in connection with their pregnancy and/or birth of their child. The first 26 weeks of maternity leave are known as Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and the second 26 weeks are known as Additional Maternity Leave (AML). AML starts immediately after OML.
Unpaid parental leave in addition to maternity leave - additionally, up to four weeks unpaid parental leave if they choose to take it at this stage and then subsequently. For clarity, a parent can take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave in total per child and adopted child, up to their 18th birthday, restricted to 4 weeks for each child and parent per year. Parental leave can only be taken as whole weeks e.g., 1 week or 2 weeks rather than individual days. Although you don’t have to take all the leave at once. A ‘week’ equals the number of hours you normally minister for over 7 days.
Pregnant office holders also have the right to time off ministry for antenatal appointments. To be eligible for maternity leave you must: a. be either a stipendiary or self-supporting office holder; and b. comply with the notification requirements set out in this policy.
The right to take maternity leave is not dependent on the length of tenure as an office holder. So, in other words, you are eligible to take maternity leave from day one of exercising ministry within the Diocese of Oxford, subject to you giving the correct notice.
Giving notice of pregnancy
In all cases, office holders must notify the Payroll Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as their supervising minister, Incumbent and/Archdeacon (in writing) at least 15 weeks before the EWC, of the following:
- that you are pregnant
- provide a certificate from a doctor or midwife (this will usually be on a MAT B1 form), doctors and midwives will give you this once you are 20 weeks pregnant.
- the details of when you would like maternity leave to start.
Upon receipt of the MATB1 form the Payroll Officer will notify clergy pay who will write to the office holder confirming your maternity start date, end date and your maternity pay entitlement. Please note, any delay in providing us with the necessary information will delay the process and may result in you not receiving all of your entitlements.
What is antenatal care?
This is care you receive from health professionals during your pregnancy to ensure you and your baby are as well as possible. It is sometimes called pregnancy care or maternity care and includes medical and other appointments recommended by the doctor, nurse or midwife. See the NHS website for further information:
During pregnancy, expectant office holders may take time off from work to attend antenatal classes (including parenthood and relaxation classes) whatever their tenure or hours of work. This will not impact stipend payments.
Health and Safety - Risk Assessment
Office holders should be aware and take responsibility to protect themselves and their babies from any potential risks.
Care during pregnancy and working arrangements - It is acknowledged that most office holders exercise their ministry in their own environment. It is, however, advisable that expectant mothers make their supervising minister, incumbent and/or Archdeacon aware of their pregnancy as early as possible so that if there is any need to address a health and safety potential risk, this is acted upon with the support of the supervising minister, incumbent/ Archdeacon as advised by the HR team.
Further guidance can be obtained from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) – Pregnant workers and new mothers, your health and safety: hse.gov.uk/mothers/worker.
Pregnancy-related sickness will be treated as any other period of ill health and will not be considered for the purpose of any structural decisions relating to the parish. However, during the 4 weeks immediately before the EWC, any sickness absence will automatically trigger the start of maternity leave.
Starting maternity leave
You can choose when to start maternity leave, however, maternity leave cannot start earlier than the 11th week before the EWC (unless premature birth occurs, which will automatically trigger the commencement of maternity leave) and can be amended providing that the supervising minister/ incumbent and Archdeacon and the Payroll Officer (email@example.com) of the diocese are notified (in writing) by giving at least 28 days’ notice before the earlier of either the new start date or the original start date or as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter.
By law, office holders may not work during the 2 weeks immediately after giving birth, so the maternity leave period must include these 2 weeks. This is known as compulsory maternity leave.
An office holder is entitled to only one leave period irrespective of whether more than one child is born because of the same pregnancy.
Office holders should discuss with their supervising minister, incumbent/Archdeacon the arrangements for maternity cover and if they would be interested in keeping in touch (KIT) during leave.
During Maternity Leave
Keeping In Touch (KIT) days do not apply to office holders as they only apply to work performed “under a contract of service” with an employer. As office holders are not engaged under any form of contract, and KIT days do not relate to work carried out in the performance of the duties of an office, office holders are not entitled to KIT days. However, stipendiary office holders do not lose statutory maternity pay if they carry out any duties of their office during maternity leave.
If an office holder wishes to undertake any of their duties during leave, they are advised to agree, in writing, with their churchwardens and archdeacon/area dean (as appropriate) what these duties will be and when they will be undertaken. This will enable the office holder to set clear boundaries to protect their leave which can be communicated to the PCC.
Any duties during leave must be by agreement and cannot be forced. These days do not need to be consecutive but should be used for any activity including retreats, attending training or diocesan meetings.
A supervising minister, Incumbent and/or Archdeacon may also make reasonable contact with an office holder during their leave, for example, to discuss return to their duties.
We would recommend that clergy carefully think through in advance what arrangements they want to make for keeping in touch during any period of maternity (and other) leave and communicate these with parishioners, churchwardens, other colleagues and as appropriate, area deans, associate archdeacons/archdeacons, bishops to ensure clear boundaries are set out and understood.
includes Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and Enhanced Maternity Pay (EMP) is above the statutory provision
Stipendiary office holders are entitled to 39 weeks leave at full stipend (this is inclusive of the first 2 weeks compulsory time off following childbirth). There is no SMP or EMP, payable for the final 13 weeks of additional maternity leave.
All other benefits such as housing, as outlined in your Statement of Particulars, will remain in place.
Enhanced Maternity Pay (EMP) eligibility and procedure - The Diocese of Oxford operates an enhanced scheme where all stipendiary office holders (including curates in training) are entitled to maternity pay irrespective of whether they qualify for SMP or have held office in the diocese for any length of time if you:
- have given the correct notice as detailed above in point 4 - Giving notice of pregnancy) and
- are still pregnant 11 weeks before the EWC or have already given birth.
In order to get EMP, even if you do not meet the qualifying criteria for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) (i.e., haven't held your office within the Diocese under common tenure for at least 26 weeks), you will receive an SMP1 form and must apply for Maternity Allowance (MA1 claim form). Send a copy of the decision letter for your claim to our Payroll Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org. This way, if your claim is successful, the Diocese will recover the amount of maternity allowance awarded from your stipend. Please also note that in order for the diocese to reclaim 92% of Statutory Maternity (and other) Pay, the diocese is required to give at least 28 days’ notice to HMRC.
To qualify for EMP, an office holder who is either a clergy or a licensed lay worker must return to their licensed ministry within the Diocese of Oxford for at least one year after maternity leave. Failure to do so will require reimbursement of the difference between SMP and EMP to the Diocese. Whereas an office holder who is a training curate is expected to return to licensed ministry (which would also include Extra Parochial Minister (EPM), Permission to Officiate (PtO) or an equivalent license to parish ministry) within the Church of England for at least one year after maternity leave.
Pension contributions will continue to be paid at the same rate as usual in line with your maternity pay entitlements. This means that the last 13 weeks of additional maternity leave is not pensionable. If you pay voluntary contributions, these will also continue however, can be reduced or stopped.
Annual leave entitlement
Where possible, annual leave entitlement should be taken before maternity leave commences. Office holders will continue to accrue annual leave throughout their maternity leave but cannot be taken whilst away; instead, it should be scheduled for a date after the leave has ended. Where it is not possible to take annual leave in the year it accrues (due to being on maternity leave) it will be carried over into the next year.
Expected return date
Office holders should confirm the date that they expect to return to work within 28 days of the initial notification of pregnancy. If, for any reason, the maternity leave start date changes, such as premature birth, we will confirm the revised return date within 28 days of the start of maternity leave.
If there are no changes to the return date no further action is required, however, office holders should speak with their supervising minister, incumbent and/or Archdeacon if an earlier or later return is envisaged offering at least 8 weeks’ prior written notice of the new date.
If an extended time is sought, the office holder should either:
• request ordinary parental leave
• request to take annual leave in accordance with their Statement of Particulars.
If sickness prevents an office holder from returning on the planned date, then the normal policy relating to sickness absence will apply.
If an office holder does not wish to return to work at all after maternity leave, they must give the Area Bishop notice of termination in accordance with their statement of particulars.
 For information, our diocesan enhanced maternity pay (EMP) supersedes the Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) provision therefore, there is no need to make you aware of SMP.
An office holder returning from maternity leave may require flexibility in their ministry. They may need to adjust to parenting responsibilities and may not be able to immediately return to full-time ministry. On return from maternity leave, additional support and a phased return to ministry may be possible. Therefore, a return to ministry pastoral conversation should be organised in liaison with the appropriate person to discuss your return intentions and to give updates on what has been happening in the parish and within the diocese. Alternatively, the office holder can request a temporary variation in how they carry out the duties of their office by referring to the right to request time off or adjustments to the duties of the office to care for a dependant.
Although such requests will be considered, there is no guarantee that they will be agreed. Any decision will be reached in consultation with the Church Warden or any of the nominated PCC representative and advice from HR. If the request is approved, the stipend will be adjusted pro rata to reflect the reduced hours.
Where a house is provided as an entitlement for the better performance of duties and where the reduction of hours is requested and granted, the entitlements to housing will remain unchanged unless the new agreed working hours fall below the minimum set for entitlement to housing (two days plus Sunday).
In cases where the office holder is employed by the parish, then this would have to be a matter between the employer and the individual concerned. However, in cases of ‘locally supported ministry’ under Common Tenure, the parish may want to follow the same provision as indicated above. These changes must be reflected in the ‘legally binding agreement’.
When new working hours are negotiated, there is a further impact on other entitlements:
- Pension contributions - Please be advised that with the reduced stipend as per above, there is a corresponding downward adjustment in pension entitlement.
- Heating, Lighting and cleaning allowances - will also be impacted when someone moves from a full-time role to a part-time role.
- Car loans - the same applies where car loans are concerned.
For individual circumstances, please contact the Payroll Services (Clergy Team) in London during their normal office hours between 09:00 – 17:00 Monday to Friday on 020 7898 1618.
Clergy/ licensed lay workers wanting to return to work after maternity leave will find it advantageous to state the intention of doing so at the outset. In respect of both ordinary and additional maternity leave, no notice of return is required unless the individual wishes to return early (see below). The date of return will be the date notified by her as above.
Unlike an employee, an office holder does not have the right to be found an equivalent post when she returns from maternity leave. This is because she has not left her office whilst on maternity leave and therefore returns to work in her existing office as of right unless she resigns or is removed from it. However, a clergy/ licensed lay worker who resigns either before, during or after her maternity leave, but later changes her mind, has no absolute right to return, although every effort will be made to find a suitable office.
If a clergy/ licensed lay worker does not wish to return to work after maternity leave she must give the Bishop notice of termination as detailed in her Statement of Particulars.
We understand that a stillbirth or miscarriage within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy can be a difficult experience. If this happens to you, please notify your supervising minister, incumbent, and/or Archdeacon. While you are not eligible for maternity leave or pay, a period of sick leave and pay may be arranged as appropriate. Please refer to our sickness policy and procedure for more information. The normal rules for special/compassionate leave also apply.
(this section is only relevant to ordinands)
Ordinands in training have no legal entitlement to renumeration or pensionable service as they have a different legal status to office holders. Ordinands who have been studying full-time are unlikely to be eligible for statutory benefits. However, the Diocese of Oxford supports ordinands who become parents to complete their training and start their ministry.
Ordinands are either training for ordination on a part-time or full-time basis. Academic fees for part-time and full-time ordinands are paid for in full. Full-time ordinands may also be eligible to receive a means-tested maintenance grant in accordance with the national ministry team guidance.
Pregnant ordinands within the Diocese of Oxford can take up to one year of maternity leave from training and continue to be assessed for a means-tested maintenance grant and are also entitled to paternity leave.
In circumstances where an ordinand has completed their ordination training and has accepted a stipendiary title post within the Diocese of Oxford but is on or due to go on maternity leave, will be entitled to EMP providing the notification requirements are followed.
 Ordinands (students) who have been working part-time may qualify for statutory maternity allowance or statutory maternity pay because of part-time employment.