Maternity leave: What are my rights when I’m having a baby?

Jun 28, 2023 | Pregnancy, Maternity

Preparing for the arrival of your baby is an exciting time, but you may be starting to think about how pregnancy will affect your work. When you take maternity leave, it’s important to remember, your employment rights don’t disappear. However, there are a few differences it’s worth being aware of.

Antenatal appointments

Firstly, if you are expecting a baby, then it’s important to note that you have the right to attend any antenatal appointments and are entitled to be paid for this time off. You also have the right to take reasonable time off to attend antenatal classes, provided they are recommended by a GP or midwife.

Your right to maternity leave

Every employee has the right to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. Whether you take the full amount is up to you, but by law, you must take at least two weeks off after the birth of your baby.

Pay and pay reviews

You may be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) while on maternity leave depending on how much you earn and how long you have been employed by your current employer. Check your maternity policy, as some employers offer more than standard. 

If you aren’t eligible for SMP (for example, if you’re self-employed or have suddenly stopped working) then don’t panic – you should be able to receive Maternity Allowance. If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible or not, it’s worth checking the Government website.

Note, you also have the right to any pay review you would normally have had during your time off. If your pay reviews are usually performance-based, as your employer must base the review on the time you were at work.

Sick pay is slightly different. You won’t receive sick pay whilst on maternity leave, only when you return to work (as long as you aren’t receiving statutory maternity pay at the same time).

Holiday entitlement

You accrue holiday as normal whilst on maternity leave. Your employer should let you carry over any of your unused days into the next holiday year, including bank holidays.

Keeping in touch with your employer

You may want a total break from work or you might want to be kept in the loop – the choice is yours. Your employer is allowed to contact you during your maternity leave, as long as it’s a reasonable amount. If you think this could be a problem, consider getting something in writing before you go off on maternity leave. This is an ideal time to discuss how you’d like them to keep in contact with you and if there’s anything you particularly want to know about, such as social events. Don’t be afraid to tell your employer if they’re contacting you too much.

Ready to get your foot back in the door? Keeping in touch (KIT) days can be a great way to ease yourself back into work. You’re entitled to up to ten paid KIT days and will need to liaise with your employer to arrange them.

Redundancy and company changes

By law, your employer must still tell you about any redundancies, company reorganisation, any chances for promotion or new jobs being advertised – and give you the chance to apply should you wish. Remember, it is against the law to be made redundant whilst on maternity leave.

For more information, maternityaction.org.uk has the latest news and advice on maternity rights.

Are you expecting a baby? Join The Parents Class today

At The Parents Class, we offer a variety of antenatal classes, including our mid-pregnancy course, which is a great way to find out more about maternity leave and other helpful information ahead of your second trimester. All of our classes are held in person and led by qualified midwives, providing expectant parents with evidence-based information so they feel empowered to make decisions shaped around their needs. 

You could also join Our Community, an online platform giving expectant parents and parents a virtual space to view useful resources while connecting with each other and healthcare professionals.

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