Wondering how maternity leave works? Here are answers to the 10 most searched questions in the UK
1. How long is maternity leave in the UK?
Eligible employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The first 26 weeks are known as "Ordinary Maternity Leave," and the next 26 weeks are called "Additional Maternity Leave."
2. How much is maternity pay in the UK?
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is the legal minimum employers normally must pay eligible employees while they are on maternity leave. The amount you get varies during maternity leave and after 39 weeks, your employer does not have to pay you anything. SMP is paid at 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, followed for the remaining 33 weeks by a set rate of £172.48 (in 2023/24), or 90% of your average weekly earnings if lower.
Depending on what is in your contract you could get more as some employers offer more generous benefits.
3. Who qualifies for maternity leave in the UK?
To qualify for statutory maternity leave in the UK, you must earn on average £123 per week and need to have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth.
4. Can you extend maternity leave in the UK?
In the UK, you can extend your maternity leave beyond the statutory 52 weeks by taking additional unpaid leave, known as "Parental Leave." Parental Leave allows eligible employees to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid leave for each child, up to the child's 18th birthday. To be eligible you must have worked for the company for at least a year.
5. Can maternity leave be shared in the UK?
Yes, in the UK, eligible parents can take advantage of shared parental leave. This allows couples to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them, providing more flexibility in caring for their child.
6. How early can you start maternity leave in the UK?
The earliest you can start maternity leave is usually 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. However, you can choose to start it later if you prefer.
7. Can you work during maternity leave in the UK?
You can agree to work for your employer for up to ten days during maternity leave without affecting your entitlement to maternity pay or the continuation of your maternity leave.
8. Can you change jobs during maternity leave in the UK?
If you change jobs while on maternity leave, you generally will not be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay once you start work with your new employer. There are circumstances where you will remain eligible, such as if your employer’s business is transferred to another employer so you should check the rules on the government’s website carefully.
9. Is maternity leave paid in the UK?
Maternity leave includes a period of paid leave up to 39 weeks if you are eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). The remaining weeks of maternity leave are typically unpaid, but you may be eligible for other benefits or allowances during this time.
10. Can you be fired while on maternity leave in the UK?
Although there are circumstances where you can be made redundant while on maternity leave, employers cannot do so or select you specifically for redundancy just because you are pregnant or are on maternity leave. The situations where it is allowed is where there is a genuine redundancy process such as when the business closes down.
The situations where If you believe you have been unfairly dismissed or treated detrimentally due to your maternity leave, you can seek legal advice and consider taking action.
Please note that the rules around maternity leave are complex so it's important to check the specific regulations on the Government website as well as and your employment contract and to take advice if necessary.