Maternity leave is a period of time (up to 52 weeks) during which an employee is granted a period of absence before and after the birth of her child. During this period, if eligible, a mother will receive maternity pay for the first 39 weeks.
You can use the calculator below to check and plan your employee maternity leave entitlement. You can also use our Maternity Pay Calculator to check how much paid leave your employee (if any) is entitled to.
What is statutory maternity leave?
Statutory maternity leave overview
Maternity leave is 52 weeks long and it is made up of:
Ordinary maternity leave - first 26 weeks
Additional maternity leave - last 26 weeks
In order to be eligible for maternity leave employees need to be classed as employees and not workers as well as providing relevant notice, as mentioned below.
Notice of maternity leave
Employees must tell their employer that their baby is due and that they want to take maternity leave at least 15 weeks prior to the due date.
Maternity leave start dates
Usually, the earliest that an employee can start their maternity leave is 11 weeks before the expected due date of their child.
Starting maternity leave early due to sickness
If an employee is off work for a pregnancy related illness within the 4 weeks prior to the expected birth date, maternity leave will start automatically at this point. Equally, if an employee's baby is born earlier than the expected date, their maternity leave would also begin automatically at this point.
Returning early from maternity leave
Employees can return early from maternity leave, however, they must give their employer at least 8 weeks notice otherwise the employer may insist that the employee doesn't return until after this 8 week notice.
Returning from maternity leave
Employees have the right to return to the same job on the same terms after ordinary maternity leave. Even if the employee stays on maternity leave for more than 26 weeks, they still have the right to return to the same job.
If this is not possible as the business experienced significant changes, they should be offered a similar job. However, the new job terms can't be worse than before (e.g. salary, benefits, annual holiday allowance, seniority etc.).
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Statutory maternity pay (SMP)
While on maternity leave, the employee may be entitled to 39 weeks of paid leave. For the first 6 weeks, the employer must pay 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings. For the remaining 33 weeks, the employer needs to pay the minimum between 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings and £156.66 per week. To find out more, read our maternity pay guide
Statutory maternity leave FAQs
What happens if I don't return to work after maternity leave?
Yes, you can choose not to return back to work after maternity leave. As per a usual resignation, your contract will stipulate how much notice you have to give. If it doesn't then you will be required to give one week's notice.
If you receive contractual maternity pay then you may only be eligible to keep it if you return to work. If this is the case then your contract will state how long you must return to work for before foregoing this maternity pay. In the case you don't return to work and need to pay back any contractual maternity pay, you will still be entitled to keep your statutory maternity pay.
Can I accept a job offer while on maternity leave?
Yes, similar to the above, you can accept a new role while on maternity leave, however, you'll have to give your current employer any notice period set out in your employment contract. If you hand in your notice whilst on maternity leave you don't need to 'work' your notice period i.e you can remain on maternity leave during your notice period.
Can I start maternity leave early due to sickness?
Up until four weeks prior to your due date you are entitled to take you statutory sick pay as usual. If however your illness is pregnancy related and you're within 4 weeks of your baby's due date, your maternity leave will start automatically early at this point. On the other hand, if your illness is not pregnancy related, you're entitled to take statutory sick leave up until your maternity leave is due to start of the baby is born.
Can I take holiday pay during maternity leave?
During your maternity leave you will still accrue your holiday entitlement as usual , however, you won't be able to take any holiday during this time. You should discuss with your employer and create a plan on when to take your holiday entitlement both before and after your maternity leave.
What happens if I get pregnant whilst on maternity leave?
If you become pregnant while on maternity leave you'll be eligible to go on maternity leave again. When it comes to statutory maternity pay, you'll be eligible to receive this again as long as you meet the usual statutory maternity pay requirements.
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Checkout this other useful guides towards calculating maternity leave