Maternity Leave – what you need to know
Are you having a baby? Congratulations! Here is everything you need to know about your rights to take time off work before and after your baby is born.
What is Statutory Maternity Leave?
When you’re having a baby, you can have up to 52 weeks off work, regardless of how long you have been in your job for, how much you earn, or how many hours you work. This is called Statutory Maternity Leave (SML).
How much maternity leave can I take?
You will be entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. You don’t have to take the full 52 weeks but you must take at least two weeks leave after your baby is born.
Statutory Maternity Leave is made up of Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave. Ordinary Maternity Leave is the first 26 weeks of your leave, and Additional Maternity Leave is the second 26 weeks of your leave. Together, that’s one year in total.
If you return to work during your Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first six months), then you have the right to go back to the exact same job as you were in before. If you return to work during Additional Maternity Leave (the second six months), then you can go back to the same job, but if it is no longer available then you must be given a similar job with the same pay and conditions.
When can I start my Statutory Maternity Leave?
Usually, the earliest you can start your maternity leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of your due date.
If your baby is born early or if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week that your baby is due then your maternity leave will start immediately.
How do I claim Statutory Maternity Leave?
To claim your Statutory Maternity Leave, it’s important that you tell your employer, preferably in writing, at least 15 weeks before your due date:
- That you’re pregnant
- When your baby is due
- When you want your maternity leave to begin.