The Basics of Maternity Leave And Pay

As baby fever grips the nation with the birth of the son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge here are the basics of statutory maternity leave provisions in the UK.

All pregnant women are entitled to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave which is made up of 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks additional maternity leave.  Taking the full 52 weeks is not essential but a woman must take at least 2 weeks leave or 4 weeks if they work in a factory.

Leave can start at 11 weeks before the expected week of confinement (EWC), but it can start earlier if the baby is early or if the woman is off work with a pregnancy related illness in the 4 weeks before the baby is due.

The woman must give the correct notice that they wish to take maternity leave by writing to their employer at least 15 weeks before their due date.   The employer will then write back and confirm the start and end date of maternity leave.

To claim statutory maternity pay a woman has to have 26 weeks service by the 15th EWC.  They will also need to earn an average of £109 per week.  If they do so they will be entitled to be paid for up 39 weeks receiving 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax for the first 6 weeks followed by £136.78 or 90% of their average weekly earnings whichever is lower for the following 33 weeks.  Statutory maternity pay is due even if a woman is made redundant, the baby is stillborn after 24 weeks or the baby dies before being born.

Statutory maternity pay commences at the beginning of maternity leave.  A woman must inform her employer in writing when she wishes statutory maternity pay to commence providing proof of the pregnancy – the MAT B1 issued by the doctor or midwife or a letter from them and must do this with at least 28 days notice.  The employer will then write back and confirm how much statutory maternity pay the woman will receive and its start and end dates.

For those women who do not meet the continuous service criteria maternity allowance is available from the state.

A woman must give an employer  8 weeks notice if they want to change the return to work date.  They are entitled to return to work to the same job on the same terms and conditions.

Women who are pregnant or on maternity leave are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.