Employment Law Guide to Maternity Leave

If you’re preparing to take time off soon to have a baby, you’re probably wondering what exactly you’re entitled to in terms of maternity leave while you’re away. This is understandable, as employment law can be complex and difficult to understand.

Here in our handy guide, we’re going to go over a few aspects of maternity leave and what you’re entitled to and hopefully, you’ll feel a lot clearer at the end of it. This does not replace legal advice of course, it’s just a few handy hints aimed at the first time mother.

Antenatal Care – The Facts

You will be needing to take time off for antenatal care, and you may not realise that you’re entitled to paid time off for antenatal appointments. However, employers can refuse appointments where necessary, you’ll also find that the father is allowed to attend two appointments with you, but they’re not legally obliged to be paid for attendance in the same way the mother is.

You can work for 10 days once you’re off, and this type of work is known as “keeping in touch days” or otherwise known as KIT. If your time away is unpaid you won’t be entitled to pension contributions. You will be allowed holiday pay.

Returning to Work – What Happens?

After your maternity period ends, you are entitled to return to the same job you had before you left on maternity leave. This may change however if you took more than 26 weeks leave, this could be due to additional time off for maternity leave, or a combination of parental and maternity leave for more than 26 weeks or four weeks parental leave taken on top of regular maternity leave.

If it’s not possible for you to return to the same job, the employer should offer an alternative post that’s suitable to you. However, the terms and conditions of this other post may not be as favourable to you as the last one.

When parents are away on leave, they have the same rights as other colleagues, but a woman on maternity leave must be offered an alternative role and be given priority over other employees. Therefore if a woman is on maternity leave she is entitled to extra protection from redundancy.

Make sure to tell your employer at least 15 weeks prior to your due date that you are pregnant. Your employer is then responsible to confirm with you the start and end dates of your maternity leave that’s been agreed with you, within 28 days of receiving the notice from you. It is best to make sure all of this is in writing.

Statutory Maternity Leave

Statutory maternity leave goes on for 52 weeks, the first 26 weeks is known as ordinary maternity leave and the second half (26) is known as additional maternity leave. You could start your time off around 11 weeks before the week your child is due to be born, and statutory maternity leave will pay you automatically if you are ill during pregnancy. But your illness would have to have started four weeks ahead of the week of childbirth.

If labour begins earlier than expected then maternity leave will start from then. You will be expected to take at least a fortnight off after your child has been born, or four weeks if you are employed in an industrial environment. Give your employer 8 weeks notice if you are considering changing your return to work date.

Maternity Pay

Your maternity pay will be provided up to 39 weeks, and for the first six, you’ll receive 90% of what you earn weekly and for the 33 remaining weeks you’d get 90% or £139.58 of your weekly earnings.

The following must be adhered to in order for you to be entitled to maternity pay:

  • Earn £112 per week

  • Be in employment

  • Offer clear notice when your pregnant

  • Provide proof that you are pregnant

  • Work 26 continuing weeks which will be completed at least 15 weeks ahead of the week you’re expected to give birth.

A letter from your doctor should be sufficient evidence you are pregnant, or you can provide one from your midwife. If there is a maternity scheme in place, you could be offered more than the statutory pay you’re already entitled to. You will be entitled to pay and some leave if sadly, you were to lose your child during labour, if the child was stillborn or was born prematurely.

Your employer should provide you with an SMP1 form if you are not eligible for statutory maternity pay and this must explain why you are not entitled to it within 7 days of having come to this decision. However, you may be entitled to maternity allowance instead.

You may also be entitled to the following benefits:

  • Child tax credit

  • Working tax credit

  • Child benefit

  • Maternity grants

  • Income support

  • Maternity allowance.

There is also a new system entitled “Shared Parental Leave,” where employees are allowed to take up to one year of their child’s life with parents sharing the 12 months maternity leave between them.

Currie & Co – We’re Here to Help

If you feel your rights are not being fully protected, then get in touch with us here at Currie and Co and we can give you legal advice. We are an experienced, trained and qualified team of employment law solicitors and we are always happy to help.