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Maternity Leave and Pay - the basics

An employee is entitled to up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is OML (ordinary maternity leave), the second 26 weeks is AML (additional maternity leave).

The earliest an employee can go on maternity leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of birth, unless the baby is born early.

SMP (statutory maternity pay) is paid for 39 weeks. The first 6 weeks this is 90% of average weekly earnings, the last 33 weeks is currently £139.58 per week.

An employee is entitled to benefit from all her normal terms and conditions of employment, except fsalary. This includes pension, holidays etc.

At the end of maternity leave, she has the right to return to her original job, if that is not possible then a similar job on the same terms and conditions should be given.

In a genuine redundancy situation, and where there is no suitable alternative work available for those on maternity leave, then they can lawfully be made redundant, providing that pregnancy and maternity is not the reason for redundancy, the redundancy is genuine the employer has followed the correct redundancy procedures and has considered any redeployment.

To be eligible for SML (statutory maternity leave) the employee must:

  • have an employment contract – it doesn’t matter how long they have worked for an employer.

  • give the correct notice – at least 15 weeks before baby is expected

  • inform the employer they want to take maternity leave and the probable start date.

The employer must confirm this within 28 days of receiving this, the start and end date of the maternity leave.

Employees can change return date with 8 weeks’ notice.

To be eligible for SMP (statutory maternity pay), the employee must:

  • Be on the payroll on 15th weeks before due date

  • Give the employer the correct notice ie 15 weeks before due date.

  • Proof of pregnancy ie MATB1

  • Worked for you at least 26 weeks before due date.

  • Earn at least £112 per week (gross).

If an employer refuses to pay SMP, they must give the employee form SMP1 within 7 days of the decision. The employee may have the right to claim Maternity Allowance.

The employer can claim 92% of SMP or if eligible for Small Employers Relief they can reclaim 103%.

Employer and employee can agree to have up to 10 “keep in touch days” while the employee is on maternity leave.

Partners now have the right to SPL (Shared Parental Leave). The employee and their partner can choose to share time off work to look after the baby.

Breastfeeding on returning to work

Employers are legally required to provide somewhere for pregnant and breastfeeding employees to rest and express milk - toilets are not suitable for expressing milk. The employee should provide the employer with a written notification that they are breastfeeding; ideally this should be done before they return to work.

During the protected period (the beginning to the end of the maternity leave) unfavourable treatment of a women because she is pregnant or on maternity leave is unlawful.

For further information contact Nichola Coulthard -

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