FAQs: Maternity Leave

What is Maternity Leave?

This is a statutory right for female employees but they must give at least 15 weeks’ notice before the baby’s due date. An employee has the right to 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave, and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. If an employer does not offer an employee the same job when they return from additional maternity leave, they must propose appropriate similar employment.

For information on paternity leave, see our paternity page.

When can I take Maternity Leave?

This may be taken any time, from 11 weeks before the beginning of the week in which the baby is due. It is not compulsory to take all of the permitted maternity leave but the employee must take two weeks’ leave after the baby is born (four weeks for factory employees). If a pregnant employee is absent from work due to health issues, within four weeks of the due date, an employer can insist this forms part of her statutory maternity leave.

Is an employer obliged to pay Maternity Pay?

Maternity pay is a statutory right, if an employee has been continuously employed for twenty-six weeks into the fifteenth week before the baby is born, subject to at least 15 weeks’ notice of maternity leave by the employee. It is payable for the first 39 weeks of maternity leave, therefore the first 13 weeks of additional maternity leave can be paid. Statutory rights such as maternity pay exist in addition to any rights stipulated in an employment contract.

What are an employer’s obligations regarding Maternity Leave?

An employer has the right to ask for notice of maternity leave in writing. The employer can ask for a copy of the Maternity Certificate, which gives a baby’s due date, after the employee has been pregnant for 21 weeks. The employer should notify the pregnant employee within 28 days of the receipt of the certificate, confirming the dates of both the maternity leave and the return to work.

Can I be dismissed if I take maternity leave?

If an employee is made redundant or otherwise dismissed for taking statutory maternity leave, this could be considered as automatically unfair dismissal. Generally, the length of service or hours worked per week would not be an issue. A claim should be made to an Employment Tribunal within three months of the dismissal date, so obtaining expert advice from a specialist Employment lawyer would be your best course of action.

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