Maternity packages are one of the most complicated and contentious issues that we come across. The legalities and logistics are extensive, not to mention the fact that each person’s circumstances and experiences will be vastly different. Historically our industry has lagged behind others in its approach to parental support but, as notions of staff welfare become an ever-more mainstream conversation, we are beginning to see change. 


Employers are increasingly aware that staff retention and attracting new hires relies on an employment culture and structure which truly reflects the diverse needs of their workforce, providing flexibility and support, rather than archaic conventional policies which can end up seeming punitive and, eventually, force workers out of the business.

Parents in hospo (1)

We’d like to provide you, the employer, with useful and relevant information, tips, and resources so you can make sure you’re doing good by your stellar team – whether you’re inquiring for your KP, your line chef, your head baker, members of your office team, or for yourself. Whether you’re wondering if different departments should have different policies, what’s legal and what isn’t, or even just where to start. 

And above all, we want to stress how key communication is to navigate these waters effectively. A one-size-fits-all solution might not actually work for everyone, and listening to what your staff has to say is probably the best place you can begin.


We’ve collated a wishlist of issues that employees want to see addressed, based on the feedback that we’ve received from sources within the Countertalk community.  These quotes all provide an important temperature check about the real priorities and necessities for the people truly affected by these policies.


Let’s open up the conversation and start thinking about real, meaningful change.

1. Support and communication

“I know so many talented women who have left restaurants years before having kids to ensure they could have a decent maternity package somewhere else. I wrote my uni dissertation 10 years ago about the barriers faced by female chefs to reaching success in the kitchen and the #1 barrier was family conflict and wanting to have children but feeling unsupported to do so. It’s about time the industry caught up!”

“I’ve recently gone on maternity leave and whilst my employer hasn’t topped up my SMP they’ve been very supportive, have said there will be a job for me to come back to, are excited for KIT days whenever I’m ready AND the best bit was that for the last couple of months before going off, they gave me lots of extra bits and pieces which meant I could be out the kitchen and WFH.”

“Don’t assume anything about what someone wants. One person might want to return 2 weeks after birth and be involved, another person might be desperate to use their full year of maternity.”

“Your employee = your responsibility. You have a responsibility to them, but the employee has the responsibility for their pregnancy / child so remember that too. Always, always ask how you can better fulfil your obligation and duty to care for your employees. Shut out all the other nonsense and just start there.”

“You have to make this policy inclusive of all the many paths pregnancy and parenthood go down. There has to be a policy for IVF, pregnancy loss, early birth surrogacy and adoption. The return to work might need to take breastfeeding into account (incl. privacy to pump and store milk) or birth injury.”

2. Flexible hours and sufficient pay

“It matters what an employer does when you are pregnant. I am pregnant now and my employer did a risk assessment…they promised to reduce my hours to 48, they state I should take rest breaks every 2 hours but that is not possible when working dinner services with staff shortages.  I am still expected to work two double shifts a week, each being 14hrs. I am exhausted and can’t wait for the next few months to pass.”

“If you have tronc, have a policy on how this affects maternity pay, speak to HMRC as the rules aren’t clear. Your employee might not get their full SMP if you use tronc during the 8 weeks their SMP pay is calculated from.”

“I went on mat leave in 2020, my employer offered nothing. Things I’d look for would be topping up the statutory mat leave.”

“So far my only option has been to leave kitchen work altogether until my babies are grown. The hours and pay just aren’t right…how can you possibly change that?”

“If there are other duties you can assign your pregnant colleague in the month or so before they have their baby that means they can sit down, nap when they need to, even WFH – it’s all much appreciated.”

“What are the details on actually working whilst pregnant – I’m a baker so it will be really hard for me to work physically – should the business see if there are other options for me?”

3. Job security and inclusivity

“The first thing would be to make your employees feel like if they get pregnant that their job is secure. I was made redundant (illegally) whilst seven months pregnant by a very well-known restaurant in Mayfair but I was unable to fight it due to the cost of lawyer fees.”

“Create a policy that protects the workers role, position, bonuses and career progression. Technically you are legally obligated to do this but no one does. Spell out how you will. Spell out how you will include health and safety assessments during pregnancy in your policy, go above and beyond ensuring that your employee can continue in their role. “

“Train all your employees on pregnancy discrimination, language and attitudes! Encourage your employee to raise issues! It is so widespread!”

“Create a policy of inclusion, inviting them to staff parties / key meetings / business changes and training opportunities.”

4. Paternal leave

“Giving fathers more of an opportunity to take leave.”

“Consider making an equal paternity package (we won’t end the maternal penalty until we have ring-fenced paternity leave!)”

And please watch this space, because Part 2 will be comments from employers, industry leaders and HR professionals – the people responsible for building these packages. We can’t wait to share their perspectives and efforts within this vital field.

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