Understanding your maternity rights

July 10, 2021

Here is a short guide to what you’re entitled to at work regarding your maternity rights and pay, as well as shared parental leave.

– Unless you’ve advised them otherwise, your employer should assume that you are taking a full 52 weeks’ maternity leave

– If you decide to return to work earlier than that, you need to give at least eight weeks’ notice.

– All pregnant employees are entitled to Ordinary Maternity Leave, which is 26 weeks. After this, you can choose to take Additional Maternity Leave, which lasts another 26 weeks and begins straight after OML.

– You accrue annual leave as normal during your maternity leave, so you might want to ask your employer if you can use some holiday to have a phased return, a career break or further unpaid leave.

Statutory Maternity Pay

– Pregnant employees are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay for up to 39 weeks if you have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks before the ‘qualifying week’, which is the 15th week before the baby is born. You must also:

  • Pay national and insurance and tax as an employee
  • Earn at least £112 a week
  • Submit a proof of pregnancy letter obtained through your midwife or doctor.

SMP is not affected if your baby is born late, but if your baby is premature and born before or during the qualifying week, you will have to submit evidence such as the birth certificate to prove you were off work due to birth.

Even if your baby is unfortunately stillborn, from 24 weeks of pregnancy you are still entitled to take maternity leave.

– If you return to work after a period of 26 weeks or less, you’re entitled to return to the same job

– After more than 26 weeks of maternity leave, your employer must be able to provide a good business reason if they are unable to accommodate this

– In this case you should be offered a suitable alternative job with the same terms and conditions

– If you feel you are being treated unfairly or being discriminated against, seek legal advice as soon as possible

– It’s always a good idea to confirm everything in writing so that both parties have a record of what has been discussed and agreed.

Flexible working

– Flexible working requests can be considered when you have worked for a company for at least 26 weeks

– You might want to explore flexible working such as going part-time, term-time working or a job share.

Shared parental leave

There are a variety of ways that shared parental leave (SPL) can be taken.

Approach this as a team, being as open as you can about your wants and needs. Give each other time and space to speak. Try to listen openly.

When you’ve worked out all your potential scenarios, discuss each one in turn to explore what might work best for your family, taking into account:

  • Your individual needs
  • Your needs as a family.

Keep these conversations going as your baby grows. The needs, demands, and dynamics of family life change over time, so try to be flexible in your mindset

Always remember that you are a parenting team. You’re in this together, on each other’s side, and both want what’s best for each of you and your family.

You can read more about your rights in the link below.



Found this helpful? We hope so! This article is from our Baby Programme.