When you get pregnant you’re usually entitled to take up to a year off work as Statutory Maternity Leave.
Here’s the low down on Statutory Maternity Leave...
At a glance
- You can take off up to a year
- All your employment rights are protected while on Statutory Maternity Leave
- You need to inform your employer at least 15 weeks before your due date
Time off with your baby
In the UK, mums can take an entire year off work – enjoying many glorious months of bonding with their new baby. How long you decide to take, of course, depends on many things - including those all important finances. But it’s great to know you can luxuriate in that precious time with your baby, safe in the knowledge your job will still be there when you go back.
How long can I take off for maternity leave?
Whether you want to take off two weeks, or a whole year, the good news is you are allowed to take the time off work and come back to your job at the end of it. This 'Statutory Maternity Leave’ falls into two sections:
- ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ – the first 26 weeks
- ‘Additional Maternity Leave’ – the last 26 weeks
When can I start my maternity leave?
Largely, you can choose when you start your maternity leave, with only a few restrictions. The earliest you can start is 11 weeks before you’re due – great if you’re feeling super tired. But if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the month before the week your baby’s due, it will kick in then. Similarly, if your baby makes an earlier appearance than planned, it starts the day after your baby is born.
Will I qualify for maternity leave?
The good news is, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with your employer, how many hours you work or how much you get paid - you still get Statutory Maternity Leave if:
- You’re an employee not a ‘worker’
- You give your employer the correct notice
Tip: You can’t get Statutory Maternity Leave if you have a child through surrogacy - you could get unpaid parental leave instead.
How do I claim maternity leave?
At least 15 weeks before your due date, tell your employer when the baby is due and when you want to start your maternity leave. Timing is everything, so make sure you do this on time. Your employer may ask for this in writing. Then they need to write to you within 28 days confirming your start and end dates.
Top tip: you can change your date for returning to work, but you need to give your employer at least eight weeks’ notice.
What about taking time off for appointments?
The good news is, you also get paid time off for any antenatal care you need. This includes not only medical appointments, but any antenatal and parenting classes that have been recommended by a doctor or midwife.
What are my employment rights when I’m off on maternity leave?
All your employment rights are protected while on Statutory Maternity Leave, including all the following:
- Pay rises
- Paid holiday (which will accrue during your time away)
- Return to work
- Protection from unfair dismissal
- Pension payments and rights during your period of Statutory Maternity Pay payment
- Any other contractual benefits (eg: gym membership, medical insurance) for the whole maternity leave period
Make sure you do things by the book to ensure you get everything you’re entitled to.
For information on maternity pay and extra maternity rights visit our maternity rights page.
For more detailed information visit the Money Advice Service, or the government’s website.