The law is on your side
At first glance, maternity leave, maternity pay and rights in the workplace when you are pregnant can seem a bit confusing and a lot to take on board – but basically, the law is on your side!
At a glance
- Let your employer know about your pregnancy as soon as possible
- You can start your maternity leave from 11 weeks before your due date
- You are entitled to paid time off for your antenatal appointments
If you have just discovered you are pregnant, you might be wondering what rights you have at work and if you are entitled to paid leave for antenatal appointments, and paid time off after your baby is born.
It is against the law for employers to discriminate against mums and mums-to-be, and there is lots of legislation on your side to protect you and your bump in the workplace.
What you'll need to do
You need to let your employers know about your pregnancy (in writing) as soon as possible – your benefits and rights won't come into force until you do. If it is early days, you might feel a bit uncomfortable doing this, particularly if you haven't officially announced it to the world, but if you are suffering with morning sickness or tiredness that means lateness or time off, you might prefer to let your managers know the reason why.
Once told, your bosses must carry out a risk assessment to make sure your job does not put you or your unborn baby in any danger. If they are unable to do this, they must suspend you on full pay.
When you are 20 weeks pregnant your midwife or GP will give you a MAT B1 certificate, which you need to pass on to your employers straight away – the certificate enables you to claim Statutory Maternity Pay, and officially confirms your pregnancy and expected due date for your employer's records.
When can you go on maternity leave?
You can start your maternity leave from 11 weeks before the expected week of your baby's birth – you need to let your employer know when you plan to start it by the end of the 15th week before your due date.
If your baby arrives unexpectedly early, your leave will start the day after his or her birth. And if you have been off work with a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week your baby is due, your leave will start automatically.
Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks long, and is classed as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ for the first 26 weeks, and then 'Additional Maternity Leave’ for the final 26 weeks. While you don't have to take all 52 weeks off, you are legally obliged to take 2 weeks off after your baby is born (or 4 if you work in a factory). Under new rules, your partner might be able to take some of your maternity leave if you want to return to work sooner.
What you're entitled to
While you are at work, you are entitled to paid time off for your antenatal appointments. If you are eligible for statutory maternity pay (SMP) it will be paid for up to 39 weeks of your leave. This will give you you 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks and then £156.66 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. It will be paid in the same way your salary usually is, and it will have tax and National Insurance deducted. See the government website on maternity pay and leave for more details.