There are three periods of maternity leave:
- Compulsory maternity leave: You cannot work for a period of 2 weeks immediately following the date of childbirth.
- Ordinary maternity leave: You are entitled to take 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave, no matter how long you have been working for your employer. You have to tell your employer (in writing, if your employer requires it) no later than the end of the 15th week before the week you’re due to give birth of the date when you wish your ordinary maternity leave to start. This can be at any time for the beginning of the 11th week before you expect to give birth.
- Additional maternity leave: You are entitled to take a further 26 weeks leave at the end of your ordinary maternity leave, no matter how long you have worked for your employer.
Under the current system of flexible parental leave, parents are able to choose how they share care of their child in the first year after birth. Employed mothers will still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity, however, working parents will be able to opt to share the leave. Currently mothers can take 18 weeks maternity leave before returning to work, leaving fathers to take the remaining 34 weeks as flexible parental leave.
The Government has introduced a new system of statutory parental rights which will allow parents to share the statutory maternity leave such that after the initial two weeks, mothers and fathers can share 50 weeks between them. The new system came into force on 5 April 2015. Parents will be required to provide a self-certified notice of their leave entitlement to their employers and will be expected to give their employers eight weeks’ notice of their intention to take shared parental leave. For further details on shared parental leave, please go to our page which will set out full details.
Benefits and Rights
Whilst you are on maternity leave, you are entitled to exactly the same benefits and rights that you had before you went on maternity leave. The only exception being that you are not entitled to get the same salary but you are still entitled to get any other benefits such as a company car, health insurance, gym membership etc. If you take maternity leave during a year when a bonus is payable then you are entitled to receive a bonus for the time when you were working plus for the 2 weeks of compulsory maternity leave. You can’t take any holiday during your official period of maternity leave so any holiday that you need or want to use has to be taken either before the start of your maternity leave or after it ends.
The only difference between ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leaves is that you won’t be entitled to accrued pension rights during the last 13 weeks of additional maternity leave and your right to return to work is slightly restricted. In other words you might not be able to go back to exactly the same job but you are entitled to go back to an equivalent job with the same pay and conditions.
You can work for your employer during your maternity leave for up to 10 days. These are known as “keeping in touch” (“KIT”) days without bringing your maternity leave to an end. You are entitled to be paid at your normal rate for any KIT day that you work. Even if you only come in for one hour, you should be paid for a whole day’s work. Any KIT day must be on the mutual agreement of both you and your employer.