Government legislation allows statutory parental leave to both mothers and fathers, although entitlements are different.
As an ’employee’, you are entitled to 26 weeks of ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’. Provided you give notification to your employer, you can take this no matter how long you’ve been with the company, how many hours you work or how much you get paid.
If you’ve been with the same employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the beginning of the week that your baby is due, you also have the right to an extra 26 weeks ‘Additional Maternity Leave’, so you can take up to one year in total.
When Can You Start Your Leave?
You can start your leave anytime from 11 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby’s due. However, if you’re off work because of your pregnancy in the 4 weeks before the expected birth date, your employer can insist that you begin your maternity leave immediately.
Do You Have to Take all of Your Leave?
You do not have to take all of your leave but you must take 2 weeks (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory) of ‘Compulsive Maternity Leave’ as soon as your baby is born.
What Happens if You Lose Your Baby?
Providing you meet all of the other conditions, you are still entitled to maternity leave if your child was stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy or born alive at any point in the pregnancy.
Becoming Pregnant Again During Maternity Leave
If you become pregnant again whilst you are on maternity leave you are entitled to further ordinary and additional maternity leave.
What Happens to my Holiday Entitlement if I’m on Maternity Leave?
You’ll still build up all your entitlements to paid holiday during ordinary maternity leave. However, unless your contract says differently, you’ll accrue only the statutory minimum (4 weeks) holiday entitlement during additional maternity leave. You can add holiday to the beginning or end of your leave. You may not be able to carry over untaken holiday entitlement if your maternity leave goes over two holiday years, so it’s best to take this at the beginning of your leave.
Telling Your Employer That You Want to Take Maternity Leave
You should tell your employer that you want to take maternity leave at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby’s due. You need to tell them you’re pregnant, when the baby is due and when you wish to begin your maternity leave. You can change the date you wish to commence your leave as long as you give 28 days notice. Your employer may ask you to put your request in writing and may ask your doctor to provide them with a copy of form MAT B1 which tells them when your baby is due.
If you don’t want to take your full allocation of leave, you must give 28 days notice to your employer that you are coming back early and your employer can insist that you don’t return until the 28 days have elapsed. Once you’ve informed them that you plan to take leave, they should write to you within 28 days telling you when your leave will end. If you don’t wish to return to work at all, you must give notice to your employer in the usual way. Likewise, if you are ill when you are due to return to work, you need to inform your employer about this in the usual manner.
When You Return to Work
When you return to work you have the same rights to the same job and terms and conditions that you were subject to prior to you taking maternity leave, the only exception being if the job itself no longer exists. In that event, you must be offered an alternative position within the company with the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been absent.
Problems on Returning to Work
You can take statutory paternity leave if you:
- Are an ’employee’ with a contract of employment (doesn’t usually include agency workers and sub-contractors)
- Are the biological father of the child or are the mother’s husband or partner (including the mother’s partner in a same-sex relationship)
- Have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the beginning of the week in which the baby’s due
- Will be fully involved in the baby’s upbringing and are taking time off to support the mother
The leave is paid if you earn less than the lower earnings limit (LEL) for national insurance contributions.
How Much Paternity Leave Can I Take?
You can take one week or two weeks but you can’t take odd days off. If you take 2 weeks, they must be taken consecutively. You can choose to take the leave:
- On the day the baby’s born
- A number of days or weeks after the birth
- From a specific date after the first day of the week in which the baby is expected to be born
The notice you must give and all the terms and conditions of your employment once you return to work are the same as for maternity leave.