Statutory Maternity Leave lasts for up to 52 weeks. An employee can use as much time as they want, but they must take a minimum of two weeks' leave after their baby is born. Factory employees must take four weeks off. An employee can start their leave up to 11 weeks before the expected week of the baby's due date unless there is a premature birth or pregnancy-related illness within the four-week period before the due date.

An employee is still eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay if their baby is born early, dies after birth, or is stillborn after the start of your pregnancy's twenty-fourth week. Their employment rights are also protected while on Statutory Maternity Leave, including the right to pay rises and build up holiday. The right to return to work is also protected.

Guide to Maternity Leave and Pay

The following guide provides information on responsibilities of employees and employers when it comes to maternity leave.

Notification

An employee must give their employer correct notice when requesting maternity leave. The minimum notice period is at least 15 weeks before the expected due date, unless there are complication such as a pre-mature birth. An employer can require notice to be given in writing. Maternity leave can start up to 11 weeks before the expected due date, unless the baby is born early or is stillborn.

Employees must give proof of pregnancy to obtain Statutory Maternity Pay. Proof of pregnancy is not required when requesting maternity leave. Within 21 days of the start of Statutory Maternity Pay, an employee needs to provide a letter from their doctor or midwife and a MATB1 certificate provided by a doctor or midwife. Proof may be given as soon as possible in the case of a premature birth.

Employees must let their employers known with 28 days' notice if they plan to change the start of their maternity leave. They also need to let their employer know at least eight weeks before you plan to change the date you plan to return to work.

Risk Assessments of Pregnant Employees

When an employee notifies their employer that they are pregnant, a risk assessment must be completed in accordance with Regulation 16 of the Management and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. All employers are required to complete risk assessments for their workplace, which should consider the risks to female employees including new and expectant mothers and breastfeeding workers. These risks must be managed to reduce potential hazards that could cause injuries, death or health problems.

Once the employer is notified of a pregnancy, they should check their workplace risk assessment to identify any new risks. If new risks are identified, employers must take appropriate actions to reduce, control or remove potential risks. The following are helpful resources for employers conducting risk assessments and other advice on maternity leave for employers:
Health and Safety Executive: New and Expectant Mothers FAQs
Health and Safety Executive: Pregnancy Risk Assessment Flowchart
Health and Safety Executive: Sample Risk Assessments
Health and Safety Executive: Risk Assessment, A brief guide to controlling risks in the workplace
GOV.UK: Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave: Employer Guide

Maternity Leave Acknowledgement

Employers must provide a decision related to maternity leave within 28 days of the employee's request. The letter should confirm the start and end dates for the leave. Employers cannot refuse maternity leave or change the amount of leave that is being requested. They can delay the start date or pay, especially if the employee provided late notice. Employers can also refuse Statutory Maternity Pay if the employee does not quality. In these cases, the employee may qualify for Maternity Allowance. If an employer refuses Statutory Maternity Pay, they must provide the employee with a SMP1 form within seven days of the decision. The form must be given within 28 days of the employee's request for Statutory Maternity Pay or the baby's birth, whichever is earlier.

Keeping in Touch Days

An employee can work up to ten days during their maternity leave, which are known as 'keeping in touch days'. Taking these days are optional and the employee and employee must both agree to them when they are used. The right to maternity leave and pay is not affected if an employee takes keeping in touch days.

Statutory Maternity Pay

In total, an employee can receive Statutory Maternity Pay for up to 39 weeks. Employees get 90 per cent of their average pre-tax weekly earnings for the first six weeks and 90 percent of their weekly earnings or £139.58, whichever is lower, for the next 33 weeks. An employer may provide additional pay during maternity leave, although they are not legally required to do so.

To be eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave, the expectant mother must be considered an employee and give their employer sufficient notice. To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, the employee must earn on average at minimum of £112 per week. They also need to give sufficient notice and proof of your pregnancy, such as a doctor's note. An employee also needs to have worked with their current employer continuously for at least 26 weeks in advance of the fifteenth week before the due date, which is known as the 'qualifying week'.

Here are some helpful resources from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and GOV.UK on maternity pay:
Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave
Statutory Pay Guidance for Employees and Employers
Statutory Maternity Pay: Record Sheet
Get Financial Help with Statutory Pay

Essential Reading: Pregnancy and Maternity Rights

The following are helpful resources on pregnancy and maternity rights:
GOV.UK: Pregnant Employees' Rights
GOV.UK: Maternity Pay and Leave
TUC WorkSmart: Maternity Leave
Acas: Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay

Essential Reading: Paternity Leave

Beyond maternity leave, there are other types of statutory leave that allow parents to get paid or protected time off from work. Paternity leave allows fathers to take time off when their partners are having a baby. Adoption leave also allows new parents to take time off when adopting a child or having a child through a surrogacy arrangement.

Here are some helpful resources with advice on other types of parental leave:
GOV.UK: Paternity Pay and Leave
GOV.UK: Adoption Pay and Leave
TUC WorkSmart: Paternity Leave
TUC WorkSmart: Adoption Leave
Acas: Paternity Leave and Pay
Acas: Adoption Leave and Pay
Acas: Employment Rights for Fathers

Essential Reading: Additional Leave

The first 26 weeks of maternity leave is known as Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML). The remaining 26 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave is known as Additional Maternity Leave (AML). This is also the case with Statutory Adoption Leave. During this time, the right to return to work differs. With OML, an employee has the right to return to their position at the end of the leave. With AML, the employee may be placed in a similar position on the same terms if it is not reasonably practical for your employer to return the employee to their old job.

New fathers are eligible for paid paternity leave for up to two weeks. Beyond this time, they may be eligible for Shared Parental Leave. Shared Parental Leave allows parents to take leave in blocks, although the mother must end her maternity leave including any maternity pay or allowance. An employer may provide additional paid leave for new parents, although these policies should be clearly outlined and shared with employees.

The following are some resources with information on additional leave:
GOV.UK: Shared Parental Leave and Pay
Acas: Shared Parental Leave and Pay
TUC WorkSmark: What is Additional Maternity Leave?