Maternity and Paternity Leave

Regardless of length of service, all employees who give birth after 24 weeks of pregnancy have a statutory right to take a maximum of 52 weeks maternity leave. The 52 weeks is divided into 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave - making one year in total.

As a minimum, employees must take 2 weeks' compulsory maternity leave starting with the day on which childbirth occurs. The employee is required to inform her employer by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, confirming her pregnancy, the expected birth date (with medical certificate) and the date she intends to start maternity leave. This can normally be any date between the start of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth up to the birth date itself.

The employer must then give written confirmation of the agreed return date (within 28 days of the employees notification). Any changes to the return date require an eight week notice period.

During maternity leave, the pregnant employee may work and be paid as usual for up to ten 'Keeping in Touch days'.

All pregnant employees are entitled to time off with pay for antenatal care made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner. An employer may require to see evidence of these appointments (with the exception of the first appointment).

At the end of ordinary maternity leave, a woman is entitled to return to her original job. At the end of her additional leave, she should still be able to return to her original job. If this is not reasonably practicable, the employer is obliged to offer a suitable alternative job.

Statutory Maternity Pay

If the pregnant woman has been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth and has an average weekly earnings at least equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions, she will be entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP).

SMP is payable for 39 weeks; for the first six weeks it is paid at 90 percent of the average weekly earning. The following 33 weeks will be paid at the SMP rate or 90 per cent of the average weekly earnings which ever is the lower. The standard rate for SMP is reviewed every April.

Paternity Leave

Fathers-to-be (including adoptive fathers–to-be) have a right to Paternity Leave if they:

  • have or expect to have responsibility for the child's upbringing

  • are the biological father of the child or the mother's husband or partner (including same sex relationships)

  • have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the baby is due or the end of the week in which the child's adopter is notified of being matched with the child

Statutory paternity leave, for those that are eligible must be taken within 56 days of the actual date of birth of the child.

Fathers-to-be may also qualify for additional paternity leave of up to 26 weeks, if:

  • they are the father/partner or civil partner of the child (inluding if the child is adopted)

  • the child's mother is entitled to statutory maternity leave, maternity pay or allowance or statutory adoption leave or pay

Family Leave

In addition to maternity and paternity leave, employees have rights to take leave (some paid some unpaid) for various family related reasons.