If you are a working mother-to-be or a new parent you have certain rights and benefits during pregnancy.
All workers have legal protection if they are dismissed or treated unfairly because of pregnancy or childbirth, whether they are employed full-time or part-time, or are agency workers.
Am I entitled to Maternity Leave?
You are entitled to maternity leave if you are an employee (whether you are employed on a fixed term or temporary contract) or if you are an apprentice. Agency workers who have completed 12 weeks in the same job have the right to paid time off for antenatal care and health and safety protection as employees in the same job.
How long does it last?
The first 26 weeks of maternity leave is called “ordinary maternity leave”. If you return to work after 26 weeks, you have the right to return to exactly the same job.
“Additional maternity leave” starts on the day after the end of ordinary maternity leave, and lasts for a further 26 weeks. If you return to work after additional maternity leave, you have the right to return to the same job but, if it is not reasonably practicable, your employer can offer a suitable alternative job on similar terms and conditions.
How do I give notice of maternity leave and pay?
You must tell your employer the information set out below in or before the 15th week before your baby is due. This information is also in the “MATB1 form”. Your midwife or GP will give you this form when you are about 20 weeks pregnant. The information in the form is:
- That you are pregnant;
- The expected week of childbirth (see the MATB1);
- The date on which you intend to start your maternity leave. (If you want to change this date, you must give your employer notice of the new date at least 28 days of the new date or the old date whichever is the earliest).
If you qualify for SMP (see below) you must also give your employer 28 days’ notice of the date you want to start receiving your pay, together with a copy of your MATB1. You can do this at the same time as you give notice of when you want to start your maternity leave. It is advisable to provide your employer with a copy of the MATB1 form under cover of a dated letter and to keep a copy of the letter and form for yourself.
What will I be paid during my maternity leave?
This depends on your contract as some employers provide maternity pay which is more generous than Statutory Maternity Pay (“SMP”). However, if not, you may be entitled to SMP. Whether or not you will be entitled to SMP depends on how long you were employed before you got pregnant but even if you do not qualify for statutory maternity pay, you may qualify for Maternity Allowance instead. SMP is paid at the rate of 90% of your full pay for the first 6 weeks, and then at the rate of SMP currently in force for the following 33 weeks
If you feel you have been treated unfairly because of pregnancy, you may have a claim for sex discrimination. However, you must ensure that you get advice quickly because the deadline for any complaint of sex discrimination is 3 months (less 1 day) from the date on which the complaint arose in most cases. These time limits are very strict and are generally not extended.
If you have any queries or you think we can help then contact one of our solicitors on 24 hour Advice Line 0800 526 368 or click here to email us.
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