If you become pregnant while working you are entitled to maternity leave for one year after giving birth, this does not depend on your employment contract. You might not take your full maternity leave, but you have to take at least 2 weeks leave immediately after giving birth (4 weeks if you work in a factory). From the 11th week before giving birth, you can decide to start maternity leave. It is essential to give proper notice to your employer, at least 15 weeks before the baby is due; otherwise, you may miss out on certain benefits. You should be given time off on full pay for medical appointments relating to antenatal care. Your employer should make sure that you are working in conditions which are safe and healthy for pregnant women or recent mothers, ranging from not having to stand for long periods, to not having to lift heavy objects. You usually have an automatic right to return to work after your maternity leave.
Receiving maternity pay
A pregnant worker will usually be entitled to either:
- statutory maternity pay
- contractual maternity pay
- maternity allowance
We will explain each of these in more detail below.
Statutory maternity pay
Statutory maternity pay (SMP) will be payable if a worker has been:
- working continuously for one company for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth
- has average weekly earnings at least equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions.
SMP is payable for 39 weeks. For the first six weeks it is paid at 90 percent of the average weekly earnings. The following 33 weeks will be paid at the SMP rate or 90 per cent of the average weekly earnings whichever is the lower.
Since April 2020 the rate for SMP has been £152.20 per week. The amount is reviewed every April and you can check it here
Contractual maternity pay
Some employers offer this instead of statutory maternity pay - your contract or company maternity policy should inform you if your employer does.
You might get this from the government if you can’t get statutory maternity pay from your employer.
You can find more information about Maternity leave and pay here.
Paternity leave and pay
The mother’s partner can take up to 2 weeks of paternity leave that can be paid if they meet the eligibility criteria. You can find more information about this here
However, you may find some employers offer different paternity leave provisions.