OK ladies, it’s time for some fast and hard facts about what leave mums-to-be are entitled to. You’ll thank us afterwards, promise
You’ve found out you’re pregnant and your mind is a dizzy whirl of fun things like how to decorate the nursery; will you have a boy or girl?; will he or she have your nose or your other half’s?… But, sorry, we need to bring you back to earth. Just for five minutes.
Because we think it’s important to know your maternity leave rights (And you do have them. Lots in fact). So grab a cuppa and read on…
Maternity leave explained
Most pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave. This is broken down into two sections – the first 26 weeks is called ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ (OML). If you decided to take longer, the next 26 weeks are called ‘Additional Maternity Leave’(AML). But you don’t have to take the full amount, although by law you must take two weeks leave immediately post birth, or four weeks if you work in a factory.
Qualifying for maternity leave
If you’re pregnant you can take Statutory Maternity Leave no matter how long you’ve been in your job, what you’re paid, or the hours you work. But you must give the correct notice. If you’re an agency worker you still have rights, but it’s very complex so get more information from www.maternityaction.org.uk
If you’re self-employed, find out what you’re entitled to here:
Notifying your employer
You must tell them you’re pregnant no later than the 15th week before the week your baby is due. At the same time, you should advise when your baby is due and when you want to begin your maternity leave.
Beginning maternity leave
This can commence any time in or after the 11th week before your baby is due. However, your maternity leave will start automatically if you're off work for any reason to do with your pregnancy from the fourth week before your baby is due.
Work contact during your maternity leave
Your employer should inform you of anything happening at work that could affect you. And this can include things such as opportunities for promotion or job vacancies.
If you’re pregnant, you can take Statutory Maternity Leave no matter how long you’ve been in your job
But be aware that the amount and type of contact between you and your employer must be reasonable. The way they contact you should also be decided before you leave (for instance if you prefer them to reach you by email, phone, have you visit the workplace etc).
You’re also allowed to work for up to 10 days during your mat leave without affecting your maternity pay. These are called Keeping in Touch (KIT) days.
However you’re not obliged to work any keeping in touch days… nor is your employer obliged to offer them to you. The rate of pay for those days is a matter for agreement with your employer. It might be set out in your employment contract or agreed on a case-by-case basis. But you must be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.
Maternity leave and job security
During OML, you will still get all the same rights under your contract of employment as if you were still at work.
The only exception is that you will not get your normal pay unless your contract allows for it. But you will, for example, still be entitled to build up holiday and to get any pay increases.
While an employee is on maternity, adoption, paternity or parental leave they have the same redundancy rights as their colleagues; and the right to be offered any suitable alternative job if they’re selected for redundancy (even if other colleagues are more suitable for the role)
An employee can only be made redundant if the employer can clearly justify doing it – eg a part of the business closes and everyone in that section is made redundant.
Returning to work
Unless you’ve stated otherwise, your employer will just assume you’ll be taking the full 52 weeks statutory maternity leave. In that case you don’t need to give them notice of when you’re coming back (but it might be a good idea to remind them!)
However, if you decide you want to come back to work earlier than the 52 weeks, you must give eight weeks’ notice of your decision.
If you decide not to return to work at all, you must give the normal amount of notice as specified in your employment contract.