What rights do I have for maternity pay and leave?

Maternity Pay

Contractual Maternity Pay

Some employers have a contractual maternity pay scheme which will be specified in either your contract of employment or the company policy which should be made available to you. Some companies require that you must pay back some of your maternity pay if you do not return to the company. However, this will only be the case if they pay you higher than the statutory maternity pay as that is non refundable.

Statutory Maternity Pay

Qualification Criteria

In order to be provided with statutory maternity pay you must meet the following conditions:

  • You must have been employed by the same employer without a break for at least 26 weeks into the 15th week before the week that the baby is due
  • You must be earning an average of at least £87 a week. Please note this is before tax. 

For how long will I receive maternity pay?

Pregnant employees you fulfil the above conditions are entitled to receive a total of 39 weeks maternity pay from their employer.

How much do you receive?

For the first six weeks of maternity leave the Statutory Maternity Pay is set at 90% of their average weekly earnings. For the following 33 weeks the Statutory Maternity Pay will be calculated at either 90% of their average weekly wage as previously or will be a set amount of £123.06 a week depending on which amount is the lower.

The rate of statutory maternity pay is subject to an annual yearly review by the Department of Work and Pensions each April.

The above figures are correct as of April 2009.

What happens if I don’t fulfil the above criteria?

If you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay then you may be able to claim for Maternity allowance.

Maternity Allowance

In order to claim for Maternity Allowance you must meet the following conditions:

  • That you worked for at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the week that your baby was due
  • That you earned an average of £30 over any 13 of those 66 weeks

Maternity allowance applies to both employed and self employed people and is the only option for those who are self employed.

How much will I receive?

The standard rate of Maternity Allowance is £123.06 or 90% of your average weekly earnings dependant on which is less. You will not be liable to pay income tax or any National Insurance contributions. 

The rate of maternity allowance is subject to an annual yearly review by the Department of Work and Pensions each April.

Maternity Leave

What rights do I have in relation to maternity leave?

  • All pregnant employees shall be entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave. The first 26 weeks of this will be Ordinary Maternity Leave whereas the second 26 will be Additional Maternity Leave.

  • There must be no gap between ordinary and additional maternity leave.

  • There is no qualification requirements to entitle you to maternity leave, it is granted to you regardless of how long you have been with your current employer and how much you earn. This is only relevant when looking at maternity pay.

  • You will also be able to receive paid days off in order to attend antenatal care.

  • You may undertake up to ten “Keeping in touch” days the purpose of which is to enable you to work under your normal contract of employment. This will of course be subject to the agreement of your employer.

When will my leave begin?

You can choose to start your maternity leave at any point you wish. This is usually taken to be from the 11th week before the week which the baby is due.

If your are absent from work and this is due to the pregnancy or something related to the pregnancy after the beginning of the fourth week before the expected week of the birth but this is in fact prior to the date you notified your employer that you wish the maternity leave to begin, the period will begin automatically on the second day of your absence.

How much notice am I required to give?

In order to claim maternity leave you should notify your employer no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected childbirth.

It may be reasonable to let your employer know as soon as you are pregnant so that they will be aware of certain conditions prior to your maternity leave, for example paid days off for antenatal.

To what do I need to notify my employer?

You need to provide your employer with the following information:

  • The fact that you are pregnant
  • The expected week of childbirth
  • The date you intend to start taking leave. An employer can request to have this in writing.

Return to Work

Can I return when I want?

If you wish to return to work before the return date agreed with your employer then you must provide your employer with at least 8 weeks’ notice.

Can I return to the same job?

You will be entitled to return to work to the same job as the one you had prior to your maternity leave.

In some circumstances if an employee takes over the 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave it may not be reasonably practicable for the employer to hold that job open for the extended period of time. The employee will be entitled to return to work and shall be provided with a suitable job whereby the terms and conditions will be no less favourable than her previous job.