Employer's Guide To Maternity Rights

An employee should at least 15 weeks before the week that they are due to give birth should inform you (in writing):
✓ that they are pregnant
✓ the expected week of childbirth
✓ the date on which they wish to start their maternity leave
Provide a certificate from a doctor/midwife confirming their Expected Week of Childbirth (usually on a MAT B1 Form)

Maternity Rights for Employees


OML – Ordinary Maternity Leave (26 weeks)
AML – Additional Maternity Leave (further 26 weeks)
Qualifying Week – the week they expect to give birth
Expected Week of Childbirth – the week, starting on Sunday, in which they are expected to give birth
Intended Start Date – the date on which they would like to start their maternity
SMP – Statutory Maternity Pay

Risk Assessment

Once the employee has notified you about their pregnancy you should carry out a risk assessment. This risk assessment is relevant once the employee has notified you that they are pregnant, within 6 months of birth and when the employee is breastfeeding.
The risk assessment should identify any preventative and protective measures that need to be taken
 changing their working conditions or hours of work
 offering suitable alternative work on terms and conditions that are the same or not substantially less favourable
 suspending them from their duties, which will be on full pay unless they have unreasonably refused suitable alternative work


Employees may take reasonable paid time off during working hours for antenatal appointments (in some cases this may include appropriate antenatal classes, when medically advised).
Employees should give as much notice as possible for these appointments.
You may ask the employee for a certificate from the doctor/midwife/health visitor stating that they are pregnant following the first appointment.

Starting Maternity Leave

The earliest an employee can start maternity leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth – unless it is triggered earlier by childbirth.
An employee can postpone their Intended Start Date in writing at least 28 days before the original Intended Start Date.
An employee can bring forward their Intended Start Date in writing at least 28 days before the new start date.
The law prohibits an employee from working during the first two weeks following childbirth.


Any sickness relating to pregnancy till the end of an employee’s maternity leave should be recorded separately from the other sickness record – it should not count towards any absence procedures.
If an employee is absent due to sickness for a pregnancy related reason during the four weeks before their Expected Week of Childbirth, then their maternity leave will usually start automatically.

Terms and Conditions

All terms and conditions of an employee’s employment should remain in force except for terms relating to pay.
• Benefits in kind should continue
• Annual leave will continue to accrue
You should continue to consult with the employee if there are any variations proposed to their contract.
If an employee role become redundant during the employee’s maternity leave, they should be offered a suitable alternative role. If there is no suitable alternative role then the contract of employment should be terminated on the grounds of redundancy and the normal redundancy procedure should be followed.

Pay and Leave

Employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks’ leave; 26 weeks of OML and 26 weeks of AML. All employees are entitled to leave, regardless of the length of their service and earnings.
Employees may also be entitled to SMP, which is payable for up to 39 weeks; this will stop if they return to work.
If you offer enhanced maternity pay, and the employee does not intend to return to work then your contracts may require them to pay back some of this pay, however, you can only do this, if it is included in your policy before they leave.
The baby’s father/partner will also be entitled to at least two weeks’ of paternity leave (which can now be taken in two 1 week blocks), and this can again be enhanced or extended by an employer – check the staff handbook.
An employee may also wish to share some of their maternity leave with their partner, through Shared Parental Leave. The details of this are available on the Government website.

Whilst on Leave

Employers should encourage employees to clearly communicate their boundaries and expectations of an employee before they leave, including whether they wish to be contacted or invited to work events, and whether they intend to take any KIT or SPLIT days.
Unless an employee requests otherwise, they should not be excluded and they should continue to be invited to events and informed of any changes at work which are going to effect them/their role.
Employees are entitled to up to 10 KIT days (and up to 20 SPLIT days when using Shared Parental Leave), and these should be fully paid when they work them.

Return to Work

Within 28 days of an employee’s no􀆟fica􀆟on of their Intended Start Date, you should inform the employee of their Expected Return Date (if they were to use their full 52 weeks of leave en􀆟tlement).
Before the employee returns to work, you can invite them for a discussion about arrangements for their return, such as
– Updating them on any changes
– Any training requirements
– Any changes to working arrangements.
Whilst on OML, an employee is entitled to return to work in the same position as they held before commencing leave.
If an employee takes AML/ Parental leave of more than 4 weeks, and it is not reasonably practicable for you to allow them to return into the same position, you can offer them another suitable and appropriate job.
If an employee wishes to return earlier than their expected return date, they should provide 8 weeks’ notice.
If an employee wishes to return later, they should request annual leave or unpaid parental leave.
If an employee does not want to return, then they should resign in accordance with their Contract of Employment, this does not affect their right to receive SMP.

More Information

ACAS Guide on Maternity Leave

Maternity Action – Rights during maternity leave and return to work

Gov.uk – Maternity Pay and Leave; An Emplyer’s Guide

Risk Assessment

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.