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Maternity Leave and Benefits

PLEASE NOTE: This page is intended to give general information about the law but is not intended as legal advice and you must not rely on it as such, nor is any liability accepted if you do rely on it. The law may change from time to time and we cannot include all elements of the law and its application in this summary. For further advice relating to your circumstances, please contact us.

 

Maternity leave

All employees must take a minimum of 2 weeks’ maternity leave starting with the day on which childbirth occurs (4 weeks for factory workers).

All employees are entitled to take:

  • Ordinary maternity leave:  OML is a period of 26 weeks’ leave.

  • Additional maternity leave:  AML follows immediately after the end of OML and last for up to a further 26 weeks.     

 

In order to qualify for OML and AML, the woman must be an employee and must comply with certain notification provisions, including informing her employer she is pregnant, when her expected week of childbirth is and the date she intends to start OML.

If an employee takes only OML or where her total leave (including any shared parental leave) is 26 weeks or less, she is entitled to return to the same job as she was employed in before her absence.  Her terms of employment must be the same as, or not less favorable than, they would have been had she not been absent.

If an employee takes any period of AML, or takes shared parental leave which when combined with maternity leave amounts to total leave of more than 26 weeks, or takes a period of at least 4 weeks’ parental leave on top of OML, AND there is some reason why it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to permit her to return to the same job:

  • The employee is entitled to return to a different job which is both suitable for her and appropriate in the circumstances.

  • The terms and conditions must not be less favourable than they would have been had she not been absent.

 

Maternity pay

An employee is entitled to statutory maternity pay where she has both:

  • 26 weeks’ continuous employment with her employer up to and including the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.

  • Average earnings of at least the lower earning limits for National Insurance during the 8 week period ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.

 

SMP is payable for 39 weeks at the following rates:

  • First 6 weeks: The “earnings related rate” (90% of normal weekly earnings).

  • Remaining 33 weeks: The “prescribed rate” (or the earnings related rate, if lower). The prescribed rate is set by the Government for each tax year.

 

Other rights afforded to employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave

 

Other rights afforded to employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave include (non-exhaustive list):

  • Health and safety:  All employers are under a duty to assess workplace risks and alter working conditions or hours at work to avoid any significant risk to the health and safety of new or expectant mothers in the workplace.

  • Antenatal appointments:  All pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments. 

  • Annual leave:  All women on maternity leave continue to accrue their paid annual leave entitlement.  Annual leave cannot be taken during maternity leave.

  • Keeping in touch days:  A woman may work during OML and/or AML for up to 10 days without bringing her OML or AML to an end.  She can work for her employer and may be paid for this in addition to her maternity pay.  Whether to take KIT days, what work will be done and what will be paid is for agreement between the employer and the woman on maternity leave.

  • Redundancy:  Where an employee on OML or AML is potentially redundant, she is entitled to be offered any suitable available vacancy with the employer (or any associated employer) in priority to other potentially redundant employees.

 

To talk in confidence about any questions you may have regarding maternity leave and benefits please contact us. 

 

Please also contact us if you have any questions regarding paternity leave and benefits, adoption leave and benefits, or shared parental leave and benefits.