Keeping mum: know your rights about maternity leave

20/05/2018 08:00 | Start a business

Maternity leave as a franchisee

As a franchisee, your relationship to your work is often considerably different to those who pursue more traditional working arrangements. While youre not quite an employee, neither are you a completely independent boss. Being caught in the middle can have an impact on various aspects of your professional life. Having children is one such area.

While traditional employees have a legal right to request maternity leave from their employer, franchisees are in a completely different position. Here, we take a look at what rights to maternity leave franchisees do have, how different types of franchise tackle the issue of maternity leave, and what you need to consider if youre thinking of having a baby.

Maternity leave as a franchisee

As a franchisee, you're not necessarily entitled to the same maternity leave rights as other employees. This is primarily due to the fact that youre considered to be in business on your own even though you have the backing of a large organisation behind you. Consequently, the way you approach maternity leave has to be different. If youre considering having children or are aware that you may want children in the near future, its relatively easy to factor this desire into your long-term plans. For instance, you can select the franchise youll go into business with based on who can accommodate these plans.

On the other hand, if you decide to have children or fall pregnant after becoming a franchisee, it might be a case of having to compromise and work with your franchisor, to find a suitable solution. While many franchises will do their utmost to support a franchisee who requires maternity leave, some may be a little more difficult to work with. In such cases, it's essential that you understand your rights and how to handle the situation.

Family-friendly franchise

Some franchises are aware of the fact that many of their most talented franchisees will, at some point, want to start a family and that theyll require support and time off when they do so. These family friendly franchises dont want to miss out on recruiting incredibly capable business minds because the company is not seen as being compatible with family. In such cases, franchises have taken steps to demonstrate that their business model can be operated on part-time hours and involve flexible working practices when maternity leave is required.

While these types of franchise can be found in some industries more than others, the idea of family-friendly franchises is catching on and becoming increasingly popular. If youre considering starting a franchise business but are aware that you may want children in the near future, it's a good idea to get together with this type of franchise and go into detail about how their family-friendly policies work.

The franchise agreement

If youre already a franchisee or dont want to restrict yourself to those franchises that do have family-friendly policies, it's vital that you take a look at the franchise agreement to work out their approach to maternity leave. In particular, it's important to consider the following three things;

  1. Whether the franchise agreement makes any mention of the minimum number of hours a franchise unit must open for.
  2. Whether the franchise agreement establishes any basic performance targets, you have to meet. If so, is it possible to hit these targets while operating a part-time franchise on maternity leave?
  3. Does the franchise agreement stipulate that the franchisee must dedicate all their working hours to the business or that they must work full time?

Franchise agreements rarely make direct mention of maternity leave or include any information relating to the process. For this reason, its vital that franchisees talk directly to their franchisor and try to work out how a type of maternity leave can be arranged or what their typical procedures are.

Legal considerations

As the franchise contract is an important legal document, its essential that you have it read over by a solicitor or trusted legal advisor. This is particularly true if youre trying to ensure a particular agreement will allow for maternity leave or be able to offer flexible working hours.

Similarly, if you discuss the matter with a franchisor and they commit to a particular maternity leave arrangement, it is essential that you are provided with documented evidence of this arrangement. Again, a solicitor is extremely useful in such cases, as they can ensure the legal document covers all the relative and necessary aspects of maternity leave.

Support through maternity leave

While not many franchise agreements make direct reference to maternity leave, a lot of franchises can offer more ad-hoc support to those wishing to take maternity leave. For instance, some franchises operate a system by which the franchisees in neighbouring territories cover the work in a franchisees territory while theyre on maternity leave. Typically, the franchisees covering the maternity leave will take any income they make from the work and contribute to the cost of the franchise fee for the manager-less territory.

In some cases, it may be possible to arrange for a manager to take over the day-to-day running of business operations while the franchisee takes maternity leave. However, this is only really a realistic option if the franchise unit is turning over enough of a profit to pay a full-time business manager.

Conclusion

While franchisees aren't able to claim the same legal rights to maternity leave as other types of worker, there are specific actions they can take to increase the likelihood of being able to take time off at the birth of their child. When considering the possibilities, it's vital that you pay close attention to the franchise agreement, as this is the document that will likely dictate what you can and can't do. Though some franchisors will be happy to come to some kind of arrangement regarding maternity leave, others won't. In such cases, it's crucial that you maintain an open dialogue with the franchisor and investigate what your legal responsibilities are, as defined by the franchise agreement.

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