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maternity-and-paternity-rights

When is the best time to start my maternity leave?

You know your maternity leave entitlement, so now it’s time to start thinking about the best time to begin your time off. Here are a few things worth considering

When should I go on maternity

Things to consider when choosing when to go on maternity leave

Pregnant woman discussing maternity leave

Choosing when to start your maternity leave can be a difficult decision, especially if you’re experiencing difficult pregnancy symptoms or work in a physically demanding job but want to spend as much time as possible with the baby after it’s born.

To help you with your decision we’ve compiled the facts, alongside some advice on what to think about when choosing your leave date. 

When’s the earliest I can start my maternity leave?

The earliest you can start your maternity leave is usually 11 weeks before your due date. However, even if you decide to work right up until your due date, if you end up taking time off with a pregnancy related illness during your last month of pregnancy, your leave will start then. Similarly, if you go into labour early, your maternity leave will begin from that date.

When’s the latest I can start my maternity leave?

Unless specified by your employer, you can continue working right up until your due date if you wanted to. However it’s usual to take your leave a week or two before your due date, to avoid the stress of going into labour at work and ensure the safe, planned arrival of your baby. 

What should I consider when making my decision?

How you’re feeling throughout your pregnancy. Everyone’s pregnancy is different. If you’re struggling to continue working, due to symptoms such as lack of sleep, back pain, heartburn, the list goes on, you might be left with no option but to start your maternity leave early and try and relax and treat the symptoms. On the other hand, you could be finding pregnancy a breeze! In which case, you’ll have the energy to keep working up until your preferred date. 

Your commute to work

Commuting to work can be stressful enough with busy and delayed trains or hours spent in traffic, but this is greatly intensified when you have a bump to think about too, not to mention exhausting. If your job involves a long commute that can’t be avoided, you might want to think about taking your leave early to avoid the nightmare commute!

Your job’s demands

If you work in a particularly physically or emotionally draining job, you may find it hard to continue working until close to your due date, and prefer to take leave early. Alternatively, if you’re able to work from a desk at home you could be happy to continue working as close to your due date as possible.

Your plans before birth

Perhaps you’d prefer to take your leave early to solely focus on getting organised and getting ready for your little one, or maybe you want to enjoy a relaxing babymoon before your new arrival changes life as you know it! If you’ve got everything sorted and think you’ll actually be pretty bored on maternity leave in the weeks before the baby then maybe you’ll want to work closer to your due date. 

Advice from other mums

It can be really helpful to talk to other friends and family about their maternity leave experience, especially if they work in a similar profession to you. Better still, if you have people at your work who’ve already taken maternity leave, why not go to them for advice. 

Can I change the date of my maternity leave?

You can change the date of your maternity leave but must give your employer 28 days notice. If you’re starting to feel much more tired than expected you might want to think about bringing your leave date forward, alternatively you might have more energy than you thought and would prefer to keep working closer to your due date.


When is the best time to start my maternity leave?