Employees Guide to Maternity Rights

The earliest you can start maternity leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth – unless it is triggered earlier by childbirth

Your Intended Start Date can be postponed by writing to your employer at least 28 days before the original Intended Start Date

Your Intended Start Date can be brought forward by writing to your employer at least 28 days before the new start date

The law prohibits you from working during the two weeks following childbirth.

Maternity Rights for Employees

Notification of Pregnancy

At least 15 weeks before you the week that you are due to give birth you should have informed your employer:

✓ that you are pregnant

✓ the expected week of childbirth

✓ the date on which you wish to start your maternity leave

Provide a certificate from a doctor/midwife confirming your Expected Week of Childbirth (usually on a MAT B1 Form)


OML – Ordinary Maternity Leave (26 weeks)

AML – Additional Maternity Leave (further 26 weeks)

Qualifying Week – the week you expect to give birth

Expected Week of Childbirth – the week, starting on Sunday, in which you are expected to give birth

Intended Start Date – the date on which you would like to start your maternity

SMP – Statutory Maternity Pay

Risk Assessment

Once the employer has been notified about your pregnancy they should carry out a risk assessment

This risk assessment will identify any preventative and protective measures that need to be taken


  • changing your working conditions or hours of work
  • offering suitable alternative work on terms and conditions that are the same or not substantially less favourable
  • suspending you from your duties, which will be on full pay unless you have unreasonably refused suitable alternative work

Antenatal Appointments

You may take reasonable paid time off during working hours for antenatal appointments (and your partner should have time off to join you, although these may not all be paid).

You should give your employer as much notice as possible for these appointments.

Your employer may ask for a certificate from the doctor/midwife/health visitor stating that you are pregnant following the first appointment


Any sickness relating to pregnancy till the end of your maternity leave should be recorded separately from the other sickness record – it should not count towards any absence procedures.

If you are absent due to sickness for a pregnancy related reason during the four weeks before your Expected Week of Childbirth, your maternity leave will usually start automatically.

Pay and Leave

You are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ leave; 26 weeks of OML and 26 weeks of AML. You are entitled to leave, regardless of your length of service and earnings.

You may also be entitled to SMP, which is payable for up to 39 weeks; this will stop if you return to work.

You employer may also offer enhanced maternity pay, and may require you to pay back some of this pay, if you do not intend to return to work.

The baby’s father/your partner will also be entitled to at least two weeks’ of paternity leave, and this can again be enhanced or extended by your employer – check the staff handbook.

You may also wish to share some of your maternity leave with your partner, through Shared Parental Leave. The details of this are available on the Government website and in your employer’s staff handbook.

Whilst On Leave

It can help to clearly communicate your boundaries and expectations with your employer before you leave, including whether you wish to be contacted or invited to work events, and whether you intend to take any KIT or SPLIT days.

Unless you request otherwise, you should not be excluded and you should continue to be invited to events and informed of any changes at work which are going to effect you/your role.

You are entitled to up to 10 KIT days, and these should be fully paid when you work them.

Baby Loss

You still get maternity leave and pay if:

  • your baby is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy
  • your baby only lives for a short time after birth at any stage of pregnancy

If you’re eligible for parental bereavement leave and pay, you have the right to take this after you finish your maternity leave.

You need to tell your employer as soon as you can about the death. You can ask your partner, a friend or a family member to do this if you need to.

You do not have to give your employer any formal evidence, but your workplace might have a policy that needs you to contact them as soon as you can.

The legal name for the time off is ‘statutory maternity leave’. If you’re not comfortable calling it ‘maternity leave’ try and let your employer know so they can support you. Employers should be sensitive to your preference and be led by you when having conversations about leave.

Returning To Work

Within 28 days of your notification of your Intended Start Date the employer will inform you of your Expected Return Date (if you were to use your full 52 weeks of leave entitlement).

Before you return to work, you may be invited for a discussion about arrangements for your return, such as

  • Updating you on any changes


  • Any training requirements


  • Any changes to working arrangements.


Whilst on OML, you are entitled to return to work in the same position as you held before commencing leave.

If you take AML/ Parental leave of more than 4 weeks, and it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to allow you to return into the same position, they may offer you another suitable and appropriate job.

If you wish to return earlier than you expected return date, you should provide 8 weeks’ notice.

If you wish to return later, you should request annual leave or unpaid parental leave.

If you do not want to return, then you should resign in accordance with your Contract of Employment, this will not affect your right to receive SMP.

Your Terms and Conditions

All terms and conditions of your employment should remain in force except for terms relating to pay.

  • Benefits in kind should continue
  • Annual leave will continue to accrue

You continue to be entitled to be consulted with, if any variations are proposed to your contract.

More Information

ACAS Guide on Maternity Leave

Maternity Action – Rights during maternity leave and return to work

Gov.uk – Maternity Pay and Leave

With Thanks to:

Thrive Law 

Disclaimer: Please note that the information contained in this guide is provided for general informational purposes only. It does not constitute any form of legal or other professional advice, and you should not use it as a substitute for advice tailored to your specific circumstances. We are not liable for any actions you take or omit to take in reliance upon the contents of this guide.