Maternity Rights Explained
Your Maternity Rights Explained
By Katie Ash & Sara Ellison Employment Lawyers for Banner Jones
Having a baby is an exciting time, but the thought of taking an extended period of time off work and receiving less pay can be daunting.
As a pregnant employee it is important to understand your rights which include paid time off for antennal care, maternity leave, statutory maternity pay and not to be treated less favourably because of your pregnancy or because you have taken maternity leave.
Notifying your employer
By law, you should tell your employer at least 15 weeks before your baby is due that:
- you are pregnant;
- when your baby is due;
- when you want your leave to start; and
- if you are sharing your maternity leave with your partner.
If you don’t, you can jeopardise your entitlement to maternity pay. You do not have to wait until 15 weeks before and can tell your employer sooner. Many expectant mums give their employer a copy of the MATB1 Form after their 20 week antenatal appointment.
Speak to your employer as soon as possible about:
- how much leave you want to take;
- if you want them to keep in touch about events and changes at work and how to do this;
- if you want to use your Keeping in Touch (KIT) days or Shared Parental Leave KIT days (SPLIT); and
- the hours you would like to work when you return.
Unless you say otherwise, your employer will assume you’re taking 12 months leave. The first two weeks maternity leave (four weeks if you work in a factory) are compulsory and you cannot undertake any work during this time.
The earliest you can commence maternity leave is 11 weeks before your baby is due and if your baby arrives early your maternity leave will start the following day. If you are off 4 weeks before your baby is due for a pregnancy related sickness, your maternity leave will automatically start.
Your employer may offer contractual maternity pay, but if you have 26 weeks’ continuous service, you will qualify for statutory maternity pay (SMP). At present if you earn over £118 per week, SMP is:
- 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks.
- £148.68 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
If you are made redundant or leave your employment whilst you are pregnant you are still likely to be entitled to statutory maternity pay subject to satisfying the eligibility criteria.
Returning to work
It is sensible to meet your employer to discuss your return, the role you are returning to, the hours you will work and anything you need to support your return. This may include a phased return using some of your holiday, a handover period or undertaking refresher training. If you are returning to work within 26 weeks you have the right to return to the same role; and after 26 weeks you have a right to return to a similar role if your previous role no longer exists.
The above is a very brief overview of your maternity rights. If you are an expectant parent or new parent preparing to return to work and have any concerns about your rights you should not hesitate to get in touch with one of our expert team of employment and HR lawyers.