Maternity Cover Issues

It is important under the gender equality duty that all managers consider the impact of the maternity cover arrangements put in place and avoid any adverse impact on the woman taking maternity leave and on her colleagues who remain working in the Department/School.


The overarching HR strategy is to attract, retain and motivate staff and particular regard should be given to researchers who take maternity leave, and the impact on research projects.  The draft EPRSC framework places significant emphasis on developing pro-active initiatives to address discrimination, as does the revised draft Concordat.  It is expected that other Research Councils will adopt similar approaches.

A woman should not be disadvantaged in terms of the cover put in place during her leave period because her post is funded by an “external” or non-central funding stream.  Under full economic costing (fEC) funding, the overhead allowance is allocated to Schools and it is therefore the School’s responsibility to make contingency plans for possible maternity leave periods.  There is no provision for the costs to be charged for centrally.

How do I arrange cover?

You will need to consider the best cover arrangements for the particular circumstances and operational requirements.  You can seek advice on this from your Employment Support Services team.

Options may include the following:

  • A like for like replacement.  This is most frequently the kind of cover arranged, where individuals with the required skills can easily be recruited.  It also supports the University's reputation as an excellent employer for parents.  However, it may not always be possible if certain specialist skills are not available in the marketplace within the timescales involved.  With the introduction of the redeployment process it may also be possible to recruit a current member of staff internally with the advantage of reduced recruitment and training costs.
  • Acting Up an existing member of the team and replacing the lower graded position on a like-for-like basis.  This can provide a good development opportunity for an existing member of staff and allow for career progression within the University.  It also provides better continuity in the training needs of an existing member of staff are likely to be reduced in comparison with a new external recruit.  This option could also be combined with the third option below.
  • Re-allocating duties amongst the team/suspension of certain projects/tasks where appropriate.

Any proposals regarding acting up or re-allocating duties must be reached by agreement with those concerned, advice can be sought from your Employment Relations Adviser on how any contributions can be recognised/rewarded.  You may wish to refer to the Exceptional Performance Bonuses or discuss acting up payments with HR.

If you decide that you need to recruit a replacement then you will need to follow the usual “authority to fill” process.  You should be aware that it is University policy that appropriate cover arrangements should be put in place which do not place unreasonable burdens on a pregnant woman’s colleagues or that would mean unreasonable demands would be placed on the employee after her return from maternity leave, or result in her feeling pressurised to return to work sooner than she would like.  Financial considerations should not be foremost in deciding whether to recruit or put other formal cover arrangements in place, however, you should contact your Finance Adviser to discuss the budgetary impact of proposed arrangements.  The University supports a fair, consistent, but also pragmatic approach to arranging maternity cover.

Martin Wynne-Jones, Director of Finance
Jaspal Kaur, Director of Human Resources
February 2009

Last edited Aug 29, 2023