Maternity leave

The Law protects female employees who are pregnant by allowing them to have time off work before and after the birth of their child in the form of Maternity Leave.

How long is Maternity Leave?

An employee is entitled to 26 weeks' 'ordinary' maternity leave, provided she qualifies in law, Followed by another 26 weeks 'additional' maternity leave if they so wish. As a minimum an employee must take the two weeks following the birth of her child as maternity leave, which normally falls into the ordinary maternity leave anyway.

Criteria to qualify

In order to qualify for maternity leave an employee must:

  • be an employee not self employed or a worker
  • notify the employer no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC) of her pregnancy, her EWC and the date she intends her ordinary maternity leave to start (this date cannot be earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the EWC).

Should I be allowed to take time off to go to antenatal classes?

All pregnant employees are entitled to paid leave for antenatal care appointments. Antenatal care includes midwife visits and possibly relaxation classes. Apart from the first appointment, if your employer requests a certificate confirming the pregnancy together with an appointment card you must provide this.

Will I qualify for statutory Maternity pay and how much will I receive?

In order to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay you must have

  • worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks up to and including the 15th week before the EWC
  • become pregnant and reached the start of the 11th week before the EWC
  • ceased working for the employer
  • normal weekly earnings for the eight weeks up to and including the 15th week before the EWC equal to at least the lower earnings limit for the payment of national insurance contributions
  • given 28 days notice to the employer of the date you expect liability for statutory maternity pay to begin
  • produced evidence of the EWC

If you qualify for Statutory Maternity pay then you will receive pay for 39 weeks in total. For the first six weeks of your maternity you will receive 90% of your normal weekly pay. For the remaining 33 weeks you will be entitled to a minimum of £123.06 per week for the rest of the Maternity Leave.

During maternity leave, you may work and be paid as usual for up to 10 'Keeping in Touch days'.

Can I decide when I to go back to work?

You have the right to return to work after the 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave or, at the end of the additional 26 weeks maternity leave. If you wish to return before the end of your ordinary or additional maternity leave, you must inform your employer in writing, giving them 8 weeks notice.

An employer however must notify the employee of the date her additional maternity leave will end, within 28 days of receiving the employee's notification of the date she intends to start her ordinary maternity leave. If the employer fails to give notice then it will not be able to complain if she returns to work early or late

Can my employer contact me whilst I am on maternity leave?

Reasonable contact between employer and employee is encouraged in law and the introduction of KITdays should assist with this further. However unreasonable contact by the employer could be construed as harassment and a failure to contact at all could be classed as deliberate isolation therefore a balance needs to be established. It is recommended that the employer and employee discuss the level of contact before she start maternity leave.

What if my employer suspends me or makes me redundant while I am pregnant or on maternity leave?

Women are protected from any unfair treatment at work because of their pregnancy, and or taking maternity leave. In addition any dismissal connected with the pregnancy and or maternity leave is classed as an automatic unfair dismissal and the employee would not have to have any minimum service period to make the claim. It could also amount to sex discrimination.

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