What are the main maternity rights?

How long can expectant mothers take off?  

Expectant mothers are able to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave and they also have the right to return to their role at the end of their leave. 

Do they need to take the full 52 weeks? 

Mothers do not need to take the full 52 weeks but they must take at least the first 2 weeks or the first 4 if they work in a factory. The timing of when the employee can start their maternity leave all depends on their baby’s due date and Maternity leave can start up to 11 weeks before this This means that the mother can start to plan their maternity leave as soon as they receive their MATB1 form which is usually around their 20-week scan. 

Do mothers have the right to paid time off before maternity leave?  

Prior to going on maternity leave, mothers also have the right to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments 

In terms of pay, employees may also be entitled to receive from their employer Statutory Maternity Pay or SMP. Those not entitled to SMP may be able to claim maternity allowance. 

To be eligible for SMP, an employee must: 

  • Earn an average of at least £123 per week 
  • Give the correct notice of their intention to take leave 
  • Provide you with proof of pregnancy 
  • Have worked for you for at least 26 weeks by the time they enter their ‘qualifying week’. 

The qualifying week is the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. 

When should an employee tell their employer?

The employee must tell their employer that they are pregnant at least 15 weeks before their due date and also let them know when they would like to take their leave. 

This is best done in writing, and the employer should then confirm back to them within 28 days and also advise when maternity leave will end based on the dates they have provided. 

During maternity leave, mothers will continue to accrue their holiday in the usual way and this will be available for them to use when they return. They will also have the right to any pay rises that they would have received had they not been on leave so be sure to include them in any reviews that take place 

You should also keep them informed of: 

  • any jobs that are being advertised 
  • any promotion opportunities 
  • if you’re planning redundancies or reorganisation 

‘Keeping in touch’ 

During maternity leave, mothers are also able to work for up to 10 days which are known as ‘Keeping in Touch’ or ‘KIT’ days. These must be agreed with you and are paid at the employee’s full salary. 

How to avoid discrimination at work

Other rights mothers have include protection by law against unfair treatment and dismissal if it’s because of their pregnancy or maternity, no matter how long they’ve worked for you. 

It’s against discrimination law to make an employee redundant just because they are pregnant or on maternity leave so remember to use a fair selection criteria every time. 

If you have any queries or questions regarding the above, please do get in touch with us via the contact form below: