Maternity leave

If you have a job, you’ve probably already been thinking about what to do after your baby is born. You may want to return to work as soon as you can, you may want to go part-time or you may want to take a longer break from paid employment.

For more information visit www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or www.entitledto.co.uk.

Maternity leave

As a pregnant employee you are entitled to take up to one year’s (52 weeks) maternity leave. This is made up of 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave (OML) – during which your contract of employment continues – and 26 weeks addtional maternity leave (AML) – during which your contract of employment continues, but only certain terms of that contract apply.

You and your employer may agree between yourselves for other terms to continue, but this is not required by law. There cannot be a gap between OML and AML. You must tell your employer you intend to take maternity leave by the end of the 15th week before your expected week of delivery (EWD), unless this is not possible.

You can change your mind about when you want to start your leave providing you tellyour employer at least 28 days in advance (unless this is not practical). Your employer must respond to notification of your leave plans within 28 days unless you have varied that date, in which case your employer must respond within 28 days of the start of your maternity leave. 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. Check your contract of employment or with your human resources department or trades union representative to find out what you’re entitled to.

Benefits and statutory payments

Working out the money that is due to you during and after pregnancy is quite complicated and things can change. For up-to-date advice check with your employer, your trades union or your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Visit the Citizens Advice Scotland website, www.cas.org.uk or www.gov.uk for more information.

Statutory maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is currently paid for 39 weeks from when you go on OML. 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). This flat rate goes up every April. You can find the latest rate and more information on www.gov.uk. Tax and National Insurance are payable on SMP. 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.

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 www.gov.uk.

Paternity leave and pay

Fathers (biological or adoptive), or partners (including same-sex) who are employees may be entitled to one or two weeks paternity leave, to be taken within 8 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 if earning more than the National Insurance lower earnings limit. SPP is a flat rate (or 90% of earnings if this is less). For the latest rates and to check if you are entitled to paternity leave or SPP, go to www.gov.uk.

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 per parent per child, and to four weeks in one year unless your employer agrees otherwise. You are still entitled to unpaid parental leave if you change jobs but you must have worked for your employer for one year by the date you wish to take it. You can take parental leave after maternity, paternity or shared parental leave, providing you give 21 days’ notice. You are also entitled to a reasonable amount of time off to deal with an emergency involving your partner, child or other dependant. This may be paid or unpaid, depending on your employer.   

Last Updated: 26 February 2016
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