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Maternity Rights

All employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, consisting of 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave (OML) and 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave (AML)

The earliest you can start maternity leave is 11 weeks before the Expected Week of Childbirth (unless your child is born prematurely before that date).

The law says that you cannot work during the two weeks following childbirth.

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is payable for up to 39 weeks provided you have at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment as at the end of the Qualifying Week and your average earnings are not less than the lower earnings limit set by the government each tax year. The first six weeks SMP are paid at 90% of your average earnings and the remaining 33 weeks are at a rate set by the government each year. Your employer may offer a company maternity pay scheme which is more than the statutory entitlement.

During Maternity Leave

With the exception of terms relating to pay, your terms and conditions of employment remain in force during OML and AML.

Holiday entitlement will continue to accrue during maternity leave. However, check if the employer will allow you to carry over accrued leave into a new holiday year.

If you are receiving maternity pay (whether statutory or contractual) during any part of your maternity leave, the employer has an obligation to maintain pension benefits as if you were receiving your normal salary. However, any compulsory employee contributions will be based on the employee’s maternity pay, not her full salary.

Keeping in Touch

An employer may make “reasonable contact” with the employee from time to time during maternity leave.

There is no requirement for the employer to have any discussion with you before the date of your return to work. However, both parties may find this beneficial.

You may be offered work during leave as Keeping-in-touch days, these are not compulsory – you should be paid your normal basic rate of pay for such days should you decide work.

Returning to Work

You should return to work on the Expected Return Date unless you tell the employer otherwise. If you wish to return to work earlier than the Expected Return Date, you must give the employer eight weeks’ prior notice of the date.

You are normally entitled to return to work in the position you held before starting maternity leave, and on the same terms of employment. However, if you have taken AML and it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to allow you to return into the same position, the employer may give you another suitable and appropriate job on terms and conditions that are not less favourable. Usually, this is the main area where disputes arise, and suggest you seek advice if you are unhappy with the employer’s proposal for your return.

If you want to change your hours or other working arrangements on return from maternity leave you should make a request under the employer’s Flexible Working Policy. It is helpful if such requests are made as early as possible

If you decide you do not want to return to work, you should give notice of resignation in accordance with your contract.

If you have a maternity leave concern and are unsure of your next steps or believe you are being treated unfairly due to your pregnancy or maternity please contact our specialist employment solicitors for a confidential and no obligation discussion on
0203 669 2216 or email


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