the rights stuff:
your guide to maternity and work

Struggling to wade through pages of jargon to figure out what you’re entitled to? You're not alone! The law is on your side when you’re pregnant, but it’s not always great at putting things into plain English. Don't panic: we've scoured all the rules and regulations to find out what you need to know.

knowing your maternity rights for maternity leave

when do i have to tell my boss i’m pregnant?

You don't have to break the news until you're 25 weeks pregnant. But if you tell your boss earlier, you can get paid time off for all your scans and check-ups. To start the ball rolling, ask your midwife for your MATB1 form and show it to your employer. Your manager will want to know, in writing, when you're planning to finish work. Then they should confirm the dates of your leave within 28 days.

i’m not sure i can do my job while i’m pregnant…

If your job could be dangerous for your baby, your boss will have to find you something safer to do. If they can’t, you’re entitled to stay off work during your pregnancy on full pay.

when can i take maternity leave?

You can take maternity leave any time from 11 weeks before your baby is due. If you’re still working when your baby is born, your leave will start the next day.

how is long is maternity leave?

All mums are allowed 52 weeks leave from their employer – even if they only started at the company the day before they got pregnant. After the first six months, the rules over pay and returning to your job change, however – check with your HR department for details.

what are my rights while i’m on maternity leave?

Nothing changes! In fact, it's illegal to treat someone differently just because they're pregnant and on maternity leave. You still build up holiday time (hurrah!) and any pay rises still apply. If you take extra unpaid leave beyond the first six months, however, your employer will probably put their pension contributions on hold.

how much will i be paid?

Lots of companies have their own maternity benefits, which are more generous than the basic legal requirements. But as a minimum, you should get 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks. After that, it either falls to £139.58 or stays at 90% of your weekly wage, whichever is lower. The good news is that you can claim that rate for 33 weeks. Self-employed? You're not necessarily on your own: you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance, depending on how much you're contributed in National Insurance. You can find all the forms and details of how to apply for maternity allowance here.

what about dads?

If they meet all the right criteria, dads can usually take one or two weeks of paternity leave. He’ll be paid £139.58 per week, or 90% of his average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. Since April 2015, parents have been able to choose shared parental leave, so dads can share the care in the first few months. You could take six months off each, or split it another way. Or you could both take time off to spend with your baby together.

what happens when i go back to work?

If you want to go back early, you’ll need to tell your employer at least eight weeks beforehand. If you decide not to go back, you’ll have to give your usual notice, usually four to eight weeks. Thinking of going back part-time, or working different hours? Have a chat to your manager. They need to at least consider your request.

The Government’s guide to maternity leave and pay is well worth a read. You may also want to have a chat to your manager, or to HR, as some employers offer extra maternity benefits.