All pregnant employees are currently entitled to 26 weeks' ordinary maternity leave. You may then take an extra 26 weeks' additional maternity leave, giving you a year's leave in total. If you take a year off, you'll have taken your full statutory maternity leave.You have the right to maternity leave regardless of how long you've been in your job, how many hours you work, or how much you're paid. To claim this entitlement, you must give your employer the correct notice.
Even if you don't decide to take all of the maternity leave you're entitled to, you will have to take two weeks of leave after your baby is born.
Shared Parental Leave
From April 2015, you'll have the right to choose to share your maternity leave with your partner. Shared parental leave is being introduced to give parents more choice and flexibility in how they share the care of their new baby.
The new rule won't replace maternity leave – it's another way for mums and dads to use their entitlements. During the year after the birth or adoption of your child, you will be able to share up to 50 weeks’ parental leave and 37 weeks’ pay. As long as your employer agrees, you can even take the leave in up to three separate blocks, allowing you to switch arrangements if you need to. You'll need to tell your employers that you'll be taking shared parental leave. If you qualify for statutory maternity pay, it will be based on the salary of whichever parent is on leave.
If you're an agency worker, you have different maternity rights from employees. You can view more information regarding maternity rights at Maternity Action.
Prior to taking maternity leave
To claim your right to maternity leave, you must tell your employer about your pregnancy no later than 15 weeks before your baby is due. You employer will need to know when your baby is due and when you want to begin your maternity leave. Your employer may want you to put this in writing. Or they may ask for your maternity certificate (MAT B1), which confirms your pregnancy and due date. You'll be given your MAT B1 by your doctor or midwife after you've reached 21 weeks of pregnancy.
Your employer will confirm the dates of your statutory maternity leave within 28 days. You can change the date you start your maternity leave, as long as you give 28 days' notice.
You can start maternity leave any time from 11 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby's due. You can bring the date forward if you need to take time off work for pregnancy-related reasons within four weeks of the expected birth date. Your employer may make you start your leave from then.
If you get pregnant again while you're on maternity leave, you're entitled to the same ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave for your next child.
Your rights during maternity leave
You keep all of your employment rights while you're on maternity leave, including pay rises and accruing annual leave. After your first two weeks of compulsory maternity leave, you can work for up to 10 days during your maternity leave. These are called keeping-in-touch days. You should agree with your employer what work you'll be doing and how much you'll be paid. It won't affect your maternity pay. You don't have to use your keeping-in-touch days if you don't want to.
Returning to work
All women have a right to return to work after maternity leave, no matter what size their employer's company is.
If you take all 52 weeks of maternity leave, you don't have to give notice that you're returning to work. Your employer will assume that you plan to take your full entitlement to maternity leave. You may want to tell them anyway.
If you want to go back to work sooner, you'll have to give at least eight weeks' notice. Make sure you do this; otherwise your employer can insist that you don't return for the next eight weeks.
If you decide not to return to work, you'll need to give your employer the normal amount of notice. You'll still be entitled to the full amount of maternity leave and pay.
Statutory Maternity Pay
Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is a weekly payment from your employer. You can claim SMP is you have been working for the same employer without a break for at least 26 weeks. You can measure these 26 weeks against the end of the 15th week before the week your baby is due.
How much do you get?
- For the first six weeks, Statutory Maternity Pay is equal to 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax.
- For the remaining 33 weeks, it’s £138.18 in 2014-15 – or 90% of your earnings if that’s less.
For more information regarding Maternity Pay please visit the gov.uk website.
What if you don't qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay?
If you’re self-employed or haven’t been working for your employer for long enough, you might be able to claim Maternity Allowance instead. You’ll also be able to claim Maternity Allowance if you haven’t been in a new job long enough to quality for Statutory Maternity Pay, have only just left a job, or your average pay is less than £111 a week (in the tax year 2014-15). But you won’t get it if you’re unemployed, haven’t been working or earn less than £30 a week.
For more information regarding Maternity Allowance visit the gov.uk website.