Rights after maternity leave

Going back to work after having a baby is made much easier if you know your rights

What are your rights when returning to work after a baby?

Your work rights after maternity leave

Pregnant woman sat at work desk

Going back to work after having a baby can be challenging and many new mothers fear that they won’t be treated the same at work. You need to know your rights.

You are entitled to take 52 weeks maternity leave after having a baby - but only the first two weeks are compulsory (four if you work in a factory). 

If you don’t wish (or can’t afford) to take a full year off, you need to give your employer at least eight weeks’ notice that are you returning to work early. If you fail to give the right amount of notice and return to work, your employer is entitled to refuse to pay you until the eight-week notice period has ended. 

Your rights on return to work

When returning to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) – classified as the first six months of maternity leave, you have a right to the same job and the same terms and conditions that you had before leave.

This also applies when you come back after Additional Maternity Leave (any part of the second six months of maternity leave). But if your employer shows it is not practical to return to your original job (for example, because the job no longer exists) you do not have the same right as I you would if you went back in the first six months of maternity leave. However, you must be offered alternative work with the same terms and conditions.

Your employer will assume that you will take all 52 weeks of your Statutory Maternity Leave. If you take the full 52 weeks, you don’t need to give notice that you are coming back - although it’s probably a good idea to do so. If you decide not to return to work at all, you must give your employer notice in the normal way.

Additional paternity leave

The father of your child or your partner could have the right to up to 26 weeks' Additional Paternity Leave. This is in addition to the two weeks' Statutory Paternity Leave they could be entitled to. Additional Paternity Leave can be taken 20 weeks after the child is born and finish before the child's first birthday.

Shared parental leave

You and your partner could be able to enjoy shared parental leave and pay. This can give you more flexibility and choice when considering returning to work and childcare choices during your child’s first year.

Flexible working patterns

If you have been working continuously for 26 weeks, you are entitled to request a flexible working pattern. This can help you balance caring for your child and work. Your employer must consider your request and respond to you in writing.

Rights to breastfeed

You should let your employer know in writing if you are planning to breastfeed when you return to work. Ideally you should do this before you return so that your employer has time to plan. Your employer must carry out a risk assessment to identify risks to you as a breastfeeding mother or to your baby. If there are risks they must do all that is reasonable to remove the risks or make alternative arrangements for you. Your employer must also provide suitable rest facilities.

Rights after maternity leave