Maternity leave

Money matters during pregnancy and once your baby is born

Having a baby can bring additional financial considerations and sometimes pressures but help and assistance are available. Even if you aren’t worried about your income or money right now, you may want to take time to plan for the future to ensure that you are getting what you and your baby are entitled to.

You can contact your local money advice service or Citizens Advice Bureau at any time throughout your pregnancy or once your baby is born. They offer free support and expertise to help you consider your income, entitlement(s), costs and any debt that you might have.

They will also advise you on entitlements that are specific to pregnancy.

Your midwife and health visitor will also discuss money matters with you and give you the opportunity to ask how to link with your local money advice services. They may discuss this with you at several points of contact, given that your circumstances can change.

Maternity leave

If you have a job, you may already have been thinking about what you plan to do after your baby is born. You may want to return as soon as you can, you may want to go part-time or take a longer break from paid employment. You can learn more about flexible working options on the website or by asking your employer or trade union representative. As a pregnant employee you are entitled to take up to one year’s (52 weeks) maternity leave. If you are not planning to take Statutory Maternity Leave, you must take Compulsory Maternity Leave. This is two weeks off after the baby is born, or four weeks if you work in a factory. For further information the website. 

You must usually tell your employer when you intend to take maternity leave at least 15 weeks before your due date. Tell your employer if you change your mind.

A happy and healthy pregnancy in the workplace

You are entitled to a workplace risk assessment to ensure that where you work is safe for you and your baby. Ask your employer about undertaking this. Your job is protected. It’s against the law for your employer to dismiss you or make you redundant for any reason connected with your pregnancy, the birth or maternity leave. This is the case even if you are part-time, and it doesn’t depend on how long you’ve worked for the employer.

For more information about pregnant employees' rights or if you think you may bebeing treated unfairly, contact your human resources department, trade union representative or Citizens Advice Bureau and visit the website. There's also lots of useful information to help you have a happy and healthy pregnancy in your workplace from the Power to the Bump campaign.

If you are not planning to take Statutory Maternity Leave, you must take Compulsory Maternity Leave. This is two weeks off after the baby is born, or four weeks if you work in a factory.


Paternity leave

The father of your baby, and your partner if you are in a couple with someone else, may be entitled to one or two weeks paternity leave, to be taken within eight weeks of the birth. They must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due.

They might also be eligible for statutory paternity pay (SPP) for these two weeks. For the latest rate and to check if you are entitled to paternity leave or SPP, go to

Antenatal appointments

After you tell your employer that you are pregnant, you will be entitled to time off to attend antenatal appointments. 

The father of your baby, or your partner if you are in a couple with someone else, is entitled to unpaid time off during working hours to accompany you to two antenatal appointments. There is no legal right for fathers, partners and civil partners to have paid time off for antenatal appointments. However, some supports may be available through terms and conditions of employment, so it's a good idea to check.

Start dates and early births

Usually, the earliest you can start your leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Leave will also start

  • the day after the birth if the baby is early
  • automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy related illness in the 4 weeks before the week(Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due, even if this is not what was previously agreed.

Keeping in touch

You can work up to 10 days during your maternity leave. These are called 'keeping in touch days' and are optional – both you and your employer need to agree to them. Your right to maternity leave and pay isn't affected by taking keeping in touch days. You must give your employer at least 8 weeks' notice if you want to change your return to work date.

Statutory maternity pay (SMP)

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is paid for 39 weeks. You’ll receive 90% of your average earnings for the first six weeks and then a flat rate for the rest of the time (or 90% of your average earnings if this is less than the flat rate). You can find the latest rate and more information on

To qualify for SMP you will need to have worked for your employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before your baby is due and earn over the National Insurance lower earnings limit. You need to give your employer proof of the pregnancy to get SMP.

Within 21 days of your SMP start date (or as soon as possible if the baby is born early) give your employer either

  • a letter from your doctor or midwife
  • your MATB1 certificate – doctors and midwives will give you this no more than 20 weeks before the due date. 
You can still get Statutory Maternity Leave and SMP if your baby
  • is born early
  • is stillborn after the start of your 24th week of pregnancy
  • dies after being born.
 You can find more information at

Maternity allowance

If you do not qualify for SMP, for instance because your earnings are too low or you are self-employed, you can claim Maternity allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Maternity allowance will be paid at a flat rate (or 90% of average earnings if this is less) for up to 39 weeks. To claim, you will need form MA1 from the DWP. For the latest rate and more information, see

Statutory shared parental leave and pay

You and your baby's father, or your partner if you are in a couple with someone else, may decide to share care for the new baby in the first year, and your entitlement to maternity leave and pay can be shared between you both. You must meet the conditions for statutory maternity leave or pay or maternity allowance, and decide to give it up in favour of shared parental leave or pay.

The father or partner must meet similar conditions to be entitled to shared parental leave, and must meet the conditions for paternity pay in order to get shared parental pay. This allows you, after taking at least two weeks maternity leave after the birth (four weeks if you work in a factory), to return to work for a period, and share the remainder of the 52 weeks of maternity leave, or 39 weeks of SMP or maternity allowance with the father or partner. Shared parental leave and pay can be taken in blocks to allow more flexibility, or at the same time to allow you more time together with the baby. For the latest rates and to check if you are entitled, go to

Unpaid parental leave

Both parents have the right to take unpaid parental leave for a child under 18, during which your employment rights are protected. This is limited to a total of 18 weeks' leave for each child, up to their 18th birthday. The limit on how much parental leave each parent can take in a year is four weeks for each child (unless the  otherwise).

Last Updated: 25 January 2018
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