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A pregnant employee is entitled to 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave (OML) plus 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave (AML). To qualify for maternity leave, you must tell your employer, by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth:

  • That you are pregnant
  • The expected week of childbirth (and provide a medical certificate if asked)
  • The date you intend to start maternity leave.

Maternity leave can normally start no earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the week the baby is due. It is best to advise your employer as soon as possible, so that arrangements can be made to cover your absence.

Once you’ve notified your employer, they must write to you within 28 days confirming your return date. You must give eight weeks’ notice if you wish to change this date.

All pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, which may include relaxation classes and parent-craft classes. Except for the first appointment, you should show the employer, if requested, an appointment card or other documents, showing that an appointment has been made.

You are entitled Statutory maternity pay (SMP) if you have been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, and your average weekly earnings are at least equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions. SMP is payable for 39 weeks.  The first 6 weeks are paid at 90% of your average weekly earnings. The following 33 weeks will be paid at the SMP rate or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower. The SMP rate from April 2012 is £135.45 per week. 

During maternity leave, you and your employer can agree to have up to ten "keeping in touch" days.  These can be used for training, team events or any form of work and may make it easier for returning to work after maternity leave.

Contact us for more information regarding maternity rights.

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