How to understand the Maternity Leave you are entitled to
All employees are entitled to Maternity Leave (regardless of their length of service or how much they earn), which is split into two types, Ordinary and Additional. Both last for 26 weeks. Read our steps below on how to go about getting ordinary and additional maternity leave. Workers and freelancers aren’t generally entitled to Maternity Leave, but your Employer may give you unpaid leave. Because Maternity Pay is structured differently please see the link below to a separate article.
What you'll need:
A copy of your MatB1 certificate (that you get from your Midwife or Doctor after 21 weeks).
A copy of your Employment Contract or Staff Handbook.
To qualify for maternity leave, you must tell your employer by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC) that you are pregnant and what the expected date of childbirth is (by showing your MatB1).
You must also tell your employer what date you intend to start maternity leave. This can normally be any date as long it is not earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the EWC. You can change your mind about when you want to start maternity leave as long as you give your Employer 28 days notice.
You do not need to take all your Ordinary Maternity Leave but you must take at least 2 weeks after the baby is born (4 weeks if you work in a Factory).
Additional maternity leave starts immediately after Ordinary Maternity Leave and continues for a further 26 weeks. This Additional leave means you can be away from your job on maternity leave for 52 weeks in total (although you do not have to take Additional maternity leave; if you do take it there must be no gap between the two). Additional Maternity Leave is usually unpaid (any Statutory Maternity Pay you are entitled to will end after 39 weeks; i.e. during the Additional Maternity Leave period), unless your Employer gives you contractual rights to pay during this period.
When your employer writes to you setting out your return date – which they must do within 28 days of you telling them you are pregnant - they will assume that you will take your whole 52 weeks maternity leave entitlement (Ordinary and Additional). If you agree your return date and later wish to change your mind you must give your employer 8 weeks notice of your new return to work date.
Since 1st April 2007 ‘Keeping in Touch’ days have been introduced which means that during either your Ordinary or Additional Maternity Leave, you can now do up to 10 days work for your employer, as long as both parties agree to the work being done (and what work will be done and how much you will be paid for the work). ‘Work’ could include anything relevant, e.g. training, attending conferences/meetings. These ‘Keeping in Touch’ days cannot be taken in the first 2 weeks after the baby is born. You will not lose entitlement to Maternity Leave or Pay during these days.
If you return to work at the end of Ordinary Maternity Leave you are entitled to return to your original job with the same terms and conditions. If you return at the end of Additional Maternity Leave you are also entitled to your original job. However, if it is not reasonably practical to return to this job your employer must offer you an alternative job with the same terms and conditions you had previously. If your employer cannot offer you suitable alternative work, you may be entitled to redundancy pay
You can also take 4 weeks of Parental Leave at the end of your maternity leave, if you want more time off, without affecting your returning ‘rights’
If you decide not to return to work at all you must give your normal ‘contractual’ notice to resign.
Holiday Entitlement during Maternity Leave. It is generally understood that employees cannot take holiday and be on maternity leave at the same time. Therefore you must take your holiday entitlement before you start maternity leave or at the end. Employees are now entitled to their full contractual holiday entitlement for the holiday year when they are on Ordinary and Additional Maternity Leave.
While on Maternity Leave (both types) your employment terms and conditions and any benefits (excluding salary/pay/wages) remain the same. If your Employer pays into a Pension Scheme for you they must continue making their contributions during the 26 weeks of your Ordinary Maternity Leave plus for any time you continue to receive Statutory Maternity Pay (another 13 weeks) or any time you receive any ‘contractual’ Maternity Pay.
If you are sick with a pregnancy related illness during the 4 weeks before your EWC your ‘ordinary’ maternity leave will start automatically.