Maternity Leave

All information correct from September 2019.

So you're having a baby, congratulations! Now you need to know all about maternity leave and your maternity rights. All employed pregnant women are entitled to one year of maternity leave, no matter how long they have worked for their employer. This is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks additional maternity leave. Despite having a whole year off, you're only entitled to 39 weeks of maternity pay. Scroll down to find out about all your rights and entitlements when you're pregnant or when you are becoming a father.

Maternity Rights

All pregnant woman who works is entitled to maternity leave unless you're self-employed, are on a zero hour contract or work for an agency. If you're not allowed maternity leave, don't worry - because by law, every pregnant woman has the right to take two weeks off after having a baby. You're entitled to take four weeks off after having a baby if you work in a factory.

If you get pregnant again during your leave, you can go on another year-long maternity leave. You do not have to go back to work in between having babies.

You have to tell your employer at least 15 weeks before the baby is due that you're pregnant and that you want to have maternity leave. You will also have to tell your employer the due date of your baby. It is best to do this in writing; that way, you have a record of this exchange. It is also wise to make sure your date is the same when you're due to come back to work with your employer. This will avoid any miscommunication. Your employer may ask to see your MATB1 form too - you will get this after your 20-week scan.

As soon as you're pregnant, you're entitled to maternity rights at work. These include paid time off work to appointments with your doctor, parenting classes, and other medical reasons. Your employer cannot ask you to work extra hours to make up for your missed time at work. (Your partner too may be able to take time off work for some of your appointments.) However, you should let your employer know that you're attending these appointments.

Depending on your job, you may have to take a risk assessment at work for health and safety reasons. A risk assessment may include things like heavy lifting and loading, exposure to toxic substances, and standing for long sessions without a break. If your work environment isn't safe for you and the baby, your employer should make the necessary changes to make your workplace safer.

You can take a holiday before or after your maternity leave - this is helpful if you want to take a long time off to be with your new baby. However, you're still classified at being back at work; you're just on holiday.

You're also entitled to Sick Pay if you become unwell when you're pregnant. However, this could affect your maternity pay.

Maternity Pay

There are three types of maternity pay; Statutory, Contractual and Maternity Allowance. You're only entitled to have maternity pay for 39 weeks out of your 52 weeks maternity leave. These types of payment can be a little confusing, but we will break it down for you.

  • Statutory Maternity Pay. This is the most common form of maternity pay. You will be paid up to 6 weeks of your maternity leave at a rate of 90% of your average (before tax) weekly earnings. For the next 33 weeks, you will get paid £148.68 a week. Your pay is taxable.


  • Contractual Maternity Pay. This type of pay is provided as a benefit to working at your company. Study your contract and see if you have it. Your contractual maternity pay shouldn't be worse off than the statutory maternity pay.


  • Maternity Allowance. This pay comes from the government, and you may be able to get this allowance if you can't get statutory maternity pay. To apply for this, in the 66 weeks before your due date, you must have worked for 26 weeks. You also have to have earned at least £30 a week for 13 weeks out of those 26 weeks.


  • Be aware; if you decide not to return to work after 52 weeks, you may have to pay back any extra allowances.

Paternity Leave

Fathers are not forgotten! If you're an employee, you're entitled to take one or two weeks paid leave to be with your partner and the new baby. However, you're not entitled to paternity leave if you're Self-Employed or an agency worker.

To be eligible for paternity leave, you need to be the biological father of the baby, the adoptive father or the intended parent if having a baby through surrogacy. To qualify for paternity pay, you must earn at least £113 a week before tax. Paternity pay is £140.98 or 90% average of your weekly earnings - this is also taxable.

Some employers will allow new fathers to leave on full pay for two weeks. This, of course, depends on your contract.

Your employment rights are also protected when you're on paternity leave. This includes pay rises, to accrue holiday and your right to return to work to the same job. You're also allowed two days paid time off to accompany your partner to doctor appointments during the pregnancy.

Going Back To Work After Maternity Leave

Going back to work after having a baby isn't easy. Hopefully, your employer is understanding and will be flexible and empathetic towards you and this new chapter in your life. If you can, start back at work after maternity leave on a Thursday. That way, if it's a little overwhelming, you have the weekend to recover. If possible, see if you can start back at work gradually - or even work from home for a few days a week.

Don't be afraid to ask other working parents on how they coped going back to work after maternity or paternity leave. They may give you some invaluable advice and support.

Maybe you find that you need a change or a new job? Perhaps having a part-time job for now suits your needs a little better. Why not read our contract type break down and see what the best options for you are.

All about employee rights