Maternity pay and leave

Maternity pay and leave

To help you take time off work before and after your baby is born you’ll be entitled to maternity leave and maternity pay – either Statutory Maternity Pay or through your employer’s own scheme. Bear in mind that you’re entitled to maternity leave however short a time you have worked for your employer.

What is Statutory Maternity Leave?

In reality, when it comes to maternity pay and leave, you’re not going to claim one without the other. However, remember that while you’re entitled to 52 weeks off work, you’ll only receive maternity pay for 39 of them (assuming you meet the qualification criteria).

When does it start? 

The earliest your paid maternity leave can start is the 11th week before your baby is due. The latest is from the day following the birth. You should also be aware that you must take at least two weeks off work following the birth of your baby.

Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and Additional Maternity Leave (AML)

Although you can take up to a year’s maternity leave, it’s made up of two different parts and it’s important to know the difference.

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave: this is the first six months – or 26 weeks. If you return to work during this period, you have the right to return to exactly the same job that you had before you took maternity leave.
  • Additional Maternity Leave: this is the second six months and this affects what rights you have when you go back to work. If you take more than six months’ leave, you have the right to return to the same job unless it is no longer available, in which case you must be given a similar job with the same pay and conditions.

During your Statutory Maternity Leave

It’s also worth knowing that while you’re on maternity leave, you will continue to receive all the employee rights you receive from work normally such as:

  • paid holiday (which will accrue during your time away)
  • 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

What is Statutory Maternity Pay?

This is the legal minimum your employer normally has to pay you while you’re on maternity leave.

Are you eligible?

There’s a key date in all of this – 15 weeks before your baby is officially due. If you’ve been working for same employer continuously for at least 26 weeks before that date and earning enough (£118 a week in the tax year 2019-20), you’re eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay.

How much do you get?

  • For the first six weeks, Statutory Maternity Pay is equal to 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax.
  • For the remaining 33 weeks, it’s £156.66 in 2020-21 – or 90% of your earnings if that’s less.

For more information about Statutory Maternity Pay, including a maternity pay calculator, see the website

What if you don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay?

If you’re self-employed or haven’t been working for your employer for long enough, you might be able to claim Maternity Allowance instead.

Find out more about Maternity Allowance

Find out more on benefits and entitlements to claim when you have a baby

Company maternity pay and leave

Some employers offer maternity benefits that are more generous than Statutory Maternity Pay. Just be aware that if you decide not to return to work after 52 weeks, you might have to pay back the extra.

Check with your employer, HR department or trade union, or look over your contract of employment for details of the company’s maternity pay scheme.

How to claim Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave

If you’re planning to claim Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave there are important things you must do.

  • Let your employer know that you’re pregnant and when you intend to start maternity leave – you must tell them at least 15 weeks before your expected due date – or as soon as possible after this. If you don’t give your employer at least 28 days’ notice without good reason, your employer does not have to pay you any Statutory Maternity Pay you are otherwise entitled to and may delay the start of your leave.
  • Give your employer your maternity certificate (form MATB1) signed by your doctor or midwife as evidence of when your baby is due. Without it, your employer can legitimately decide not to pay Statutory Maternity Pay.

Use our template letter to notify your employer in writing (downloads word document)

Find out more about how to claim Statutory Maternity Pay on the website

Returning to work

When you leave, you will have let your employer know how long you intend to be on maternity leave for and your expected return date. A lot can happen while you’re on maternity leave, and you have the right to change your mind about the end of your maternity leave, but you must give your employer eight weeks’ notice if you want to return later or earlier.

Sharing your additional maternity leave with your partner

A period of between two and 26 weeks' statutory leave which can be taken by an eligible employee to care for their child during the "window" that starts 20 weeks after, and ends 12 months after, the child's date of birth or placement for adoption, as long as the child's mother or adopter has returned to work.

APL is not available for babies due on or after 5 April 2015 or children placed for adoption after that date, following its replacement by the shared parental leave scheme.

See how to claim Additional Paternity Leave on the website

Not happy about the way you’ve been treated by your employer?

If your employer doesn’t think they need to give you maternity pay, or you feel they’re not paying the right amount:

  • talk to your employer and make sure you get a written explanation
  • make a formal complaint, or speak to your trade union or employees’ rep if you have one
  • call HM Revenue & Customs employee's enquiry line on 0845 302 1479 for advice