We answer your most common maternity leave questions about your rights and legal entitlements as a pregnant working woman.
I am pregnant and need time off work for antenatal appointments. Will I be paid for the time I take off?
Yes, you are entitled to be paid your normal salary for any time off you take to attend antenatal appointments, or other medical appointments recommended by your doctor, midwife or health visitor.
I would like to attend relaxation classes. Do these count as antenatal care?
Yes, if your doctor, midwife or health visitor has recommended that you attend them as part of your antenatal care.
I have only been with my employer for six months. How much maternity leave can I take?
All pregnant women, regardless of length of service, are entitled to take 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave. The earliest your maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before your expected week of childbirth.
I’ve got 18 months service with my employer. How much maternity leave am I entitled to?
Women who have at least 26 weeks service with their employer, 15 weeks before their expected week of childbirth are entitled to take up to 52 weeks maternity leave.
Women whose babies are born after 6 April 2003 and have at least 26 weeks service with their employer 15 weeks before their expected week of childbirth will be able to take up to a year off work.
I want to work right up to the date of the birth so that I have more paid time off once my baby is born. Can I do this?
If you feel well you can work for as long as you like. However, if you become sick due to a pregnancy related illness four weeks before your expected week of childbirth your employer can start your maternity leave immediately.
My job involves quite a lot of lifting and my doctor has advised me to stop lifting altogether. What should I do?
If you have not told your employer that you are pregnant, you should do so immediately. Your employer should eliminate lifting from your job while you are pregnant – perhaps there are other tasks that you can do instead. If this is not possible, then you should be offered suitable alternative employment on terms and conditions that are no less favourable. If no suitable alternative employment is available, then you are entitled to be suspended on full pay for the remainder of your pregnancy.
Am I entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay and how much can I expect to get?
In order to be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you must have at least 26 weeks continuous service with your employer at the qualifying week (ie 15 weeks before your baby is due), and have average weekly earnings of at least £75 over the 8 week period before your qualifying week.
SMP is paid at 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks and £100 for the next 20 weeks.
I want to go back to work but I want to return part-time (I was full-time). Can I insist?
No. You have a right to return to the same job, or, in the case of additional maternity leave, to suitable alternative employment if it is not reasonably practicable for you to return to your old job. However, you have a right to request flexible working and your employer has a duty to seriously consider your request and must be able to justify its reasons if not allowing you to return part-time. For advice contact your trades union representative or local Citizens Advice Bureau.
I understand that I can take parental leave once my maternity leave expires. How should I go about arranging this?
The most parental leave you can take in a year is 4 weeks, unless your employer agrees otherwise.
You should give your employer at least 21 days notice of your intention to take parental leave, that is at least 21 days before your maternity leave is due to end.