Resigning While on Maternity Leave – How to Do It & Your Rights

Becoming a parent often brings with it a new perspective on life. This is why it’s fairly common for mothers to resign while on maternity leave. Priorities change and with that comes the realisation that the current job is not going to work out.

Becoming a parent changes the dimension of a family and can make individuals re-evaluate their work life. Reasons for resigning on maternity leave will vary drastically from person to person.

Some of the common causes are financial, childcare issues, and the need to work fewer hours. Some may even be financially better off by being a stay at home mum for those first few years.

If you’re in this predicament or envisage a time when you will be, then our guide is here to help. We look at how to quit while on maternity leave without losing out financially.  It is important to remember that on maternity leave, you are still protected by your contract and statutory maternity rights in UK law.

Things to Consider Before You Hand in Your Notice

Handing in your notice at any time can be tricky but resigning during maternity leave is a little more complicated. This is because there is a lot to consider such as maternity rights and pay.

Initially, handing in your notice during maternity leave takes the same approach as any other time. There is just a little more to think about in terms of the impact on your statutory maternity pay and your financial situation.

It is important to resign appropriately, following company protocols. Your contract should dictate how you give notice and how many weeks are required. It is perfectly legal to resign while on your maternity leave as long as you are not in breach of your contract.

About Statutory Maternity Pay

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is payable to employees while they are away from work. There are certain conditions to be met before qualification is guaranteed.

  • SMP is payable for a maximum of 39 weeks.
  • First 6 weeks: You will receive 90% of your average weekly earnings, before tax.
  • After 6 weeks: You will receive either 90% of your average weekly earnings or £156.66 per week (whichever of these is the lowest).
  • You need to have been employed in the same job for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before your due date.
  • You need to be in the same job in the 15th week before the baby’s due date. This can be full or part time.
  • On average, you need to earn at least £123 per week (before tax) in the 8 weeks leading up to the last pay before the 15th week of the due date.
  • You can start receiving SMP 11 weeks before the due date.
  • In most cases, you can choose when you would like to start receiving these payments.
  • Maternity leave can last a maximum of 1 year and a minimum of 2 weeks.

Am I Still Entitled to SMP If I’ve Resigned?

Once you have applied and qualified for SMP then you are entitled to keep receiving it even if you resign.

When you are in employment and meet the criteria for SMP then you will continue to receive this even if your circumstances change. This is the case for resignation, dismissal, redundancy, the contract comes to an end or you do not wish to return after maternity leave.

If you do not meet the conditions for SMP, you might be able to claim Maternity Allowance instead. This is also available for the self employed and unemployed. and is paid out by Jobcentre Plus.

  • You need to have been employed or self employed for a minimum of 26 of the 66 weeks before your due date week.
  • You have earned, on average, over £30 per week for 13 weeks in total. These weeks do not need to be consecutive.
  • It is paid at a rate of £156.66 for 39 weeks or 90% of your average weekly income.

Source: UK Gov Maternity Pay & Leave

Do You Have to Pay Back Maternity Pay if You Leave?

When you are receiving SMP and decide to resign, you do not need to pay any of it back. If, however, you take up a new job during your SMP period then payments will stop.

Some employers offer to pay more than SMP and this makes up part of your contract. It is usually called Occupational Maternity Pay, or Enhanced Maternity. When this payment is offered there will normally be a clause in the contract.

This usually means an employee must return for at least an agreed amount of time after maternity ends. Failure to do so will mean repaying enhanced maternity pay. It is important to refer to your contract to check for such clauses if enhanced maternity is offered.

SMP and Maternity Allowance payments are separate entities to employer’s pay and they can’t, therefore, ask for them to be repaid.

Annual Leave Entitlement

Your annual leave entitlement is not affected by taking your maternity leave. This means you will continue to accrue your holiday while you are at home with your baby.

If you find yourself in the position of being refused your accrued holiday while on maternity leave then you should contact ACAS for help.

Should you hand in your notice while on maternity leave then you will continue to accrue holiday days until your notice period ends. Any unused holiday days should be paid to you with your final paycheck.

The ACAS guide to holiday pay and maternity leave outlines your rights.

When Should I Resign If I Don’t Wish To Return After Maternity Leave?

Being on maternity leave can be an emotional time and sometimes it can be hard to imagine working again. It is a good idea to hold off making any big decisions about resigning after maternity leave until you are sure.

Those first few months of motherhood can be very sleep deprived. You should never rush into big, life changing epiphanies without some logical thought and good think of the implications.

Once you have decided to resign after maternity leave then you only legally have to give the contractual notice.

Sometimes it is worthwhile holding out and giving the required notice right at the end of your leave. It can be financially beneficial because you continue to accrue holiday pay during maternity. This is payable at the end of your leave, which can give a cash boost.

How Much Notice Do I Have to Give?

When you are on maternity leave, normal contract terms apply. When you want to find out how much notice is required, you should refer to the contract.

If there is no contract or no mention of the notice period, then the statutory notice period is observed.

The statutory notice period has a minimum period of one week for those in employment for more than one month.

Accepting Another Job on Maternity Leave

You might have decided on your maternity leave that your job isn’t the right fit for you anymore. You might even be interested in applying for a new one and are sat weighing up the dos and don’ts.

Applying for a new job while on maternity leave is perfectly acceptable. You just need to take into consideration that you need to give notice and you cannot claim maternity pay with new employment.

Should you decide to take a new job before your maternity pay has finished then this will stop once a new job starts.

As soon as you leave your current employer and start somewhere new, your maternity pay ends. In most cases, it makes financial sense to wait until the end of maternity leave before jumping ship. This ensures you are getting your correct entitlement and are giving your current employer the correct amount of notice.


Do you have to return to work after maternity leave?

You do not have to return to work after maternity leave if you do not wish to. You just need to ensure you stay within the terms of your contract. This means checking the notice requirements and making sure your leaving won’t affect your maternity pay. It often makes sense to give notice just as you reach the end of your maternity leave.

The only time you might be contracted to return after maternity leave is if your work pays you enhanced maternity. This is a generous amount, more than what SMP pays out, but usually comes with a contractual agreement to return to work after maternity ends. The minimum length of time you are required to return for will be set out in the contract. This is to help boost the return rate of staff in the workplace.

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