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Maternity, Paternity & Adoption

To qualify for SMP an employee must have worked for her employer for at least 26 weeks prior to the 15th week before the baby is due. Additionally, she must have earned at least as much as the National Insurance lower earnings limit in the 8 weeks (or 2 months if paid monthly) prior to the 15th week. The lower earnings limit is described in our employment law fact card and is reviewed each April). To find useful tools to calculate entitlement to maternity leave and pay, go to our links page.

Staff members will qualify for maternity leave if

  • They are an employee (not a worker)
  • They have provided the correct notice (at least 15 weeks before the due date)

Employees cannot get Statutory Maternity Leave if they have a child through surrogacy. They could get Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay instead.

All women are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave. Most women will be entitled to maternity pay for 39 weeks. The first 6 weeks at 90% of normal earnings, the remainder at the current Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) rate, or 90% of normal earnings if this is less than the SMP rate. To use the HM Revenue & Customs website ready reckoner to calculate entitlement to maternity leave and pay, go to

Please see our employment law fact card for the rates currently in force.  These are reviewed each April. Qualifying employees are entitled to receive the current rate or 90% of weekly earnings if this is less. Only complete weeks can be taken, not odd days.

The employment law fact card is hosted on its own website – please use your browser back button to return here. 

If a woman does not qualify for SMP, she may qualify for a Maternity Allowance (MA) instead. She must meet all of the criteria for SMP but may not have been working for her current employer for 26 weeks. She must however have worked for at least 26 weeks out of the 66 weeks prior to the date when the baby is due (even if this was with different employers) and earned a minimum amount each week. If this is the case she will be able to claim MA at the current statutory rate (reviewed each April), or 90% of average earnings, whichever is the lower sum.

To claim MA send form MA1 (obtainable from the local Benefits Agency office or ante natal clinics) with the maternity certificate form MAT B1 to the local Benefits Agency office.

Women on a very low income may be able to claim a Sure Start Maternity Grant.

Yes, employers are allowed to keep reasonable contact with employees on maternity leave. Use common sense though and ensure that contact is only as necessary and could not be construed as harassment.

Bank holidays will continue to accrue.

Yes, holidays continue to accrue at the higher of the contractual or statutory minimum rate (5.6 weeks) throughout maternity leave. The bank holidays continue to accrue.

In the case of maternity leave accrued holidays will not be lost at the end of the holiday year (i.e. while the employee remains on maternity leave.) Holidays should be planned carefully to ensure they are taken, and one method often used is for the employee to convert the last part of her maternity leave (normally AML which is unpaid) into paid holiday.

Women are entitled to return to the same job if returning imemdiately after the OML period (6 months.) In most cases this will also apply after AML. In exceptional cases. In limited circumstances a woman may be offered an alternative job after AML (Additional Maternity Leave), but only on the grounds that returning to the same job is genuinely impractical. Even then, employment terms must be no less favourable. As a rule of thumb, ensure all women returning from either OML or AML return to the same job on no worse terms than before.

No, but you must consider any requests for flexible working according to flexible working regulations.  There are 8 grounds under which a request can be refused, but only after a fair process has been followed which should include a meeting and an appeal, both held without undue delay – the employee may be accompanied by a colleague at formal meetings.

All contractual terms of employment continue in full and in force during maternity leave, with the exception of pay. A woman returning to work after maternity leave is entitled to benefit from any general pay and conditions improvements granted to other employees during the period of her maternity leave.

You could ask the employee if she would like to come in for the training course, providing it is not likely to be hazardous to her health. She may agree to attend, but she does not have to. Employees can work up to 10 days during maternity leave without bringing the leave to an end or affecting entitlement to maternity pay. These are called ‘keeping in touch days’ (KIT), but are voluntary for both employee and employer.

If she has worked for the company for 26 weeks and over, up to and into the 15th week before the week the baby’s due and has average earnings at least equal to the Lower Earnings Limit for NICs (see our employment law fact card and remember this is a different site – use your browser button to return here) then she will be entitled to statutory maternity pay (she would always have been entitled to leave).

Even if her contract ends midway through her leave period, she must still be paid full for her full term (39 weeks) although she will cease accruing holiday at the point the contract ends. Remember that you can claim back SMP, and if her contract has ended, she won’t be accruing holiday.

All pregnant women are entitled to maternity leave irrespective of service. At the moment men require 26 weeks service to qualify for paternity leave.

‘Ordinary paternity leave’ consists of 2 weeks which can be taken as either two consecutive weeks or two separate one week blocks, within 52 weeks of the birth of the child for the purposes of caring for the child or supporting the mother or adoptive parent in the case of adoption. The entitlement is to Statutory Paternity Leave (SPL) and Pay (SPP), with the rate set each year by government. In practice many employers prefer to offer SPL on normal terms and conditions. Refer to Employment Law Fact Card  for details on current rates and measures (this is hosted on a different site – use your browser back button to return here.)

Under Shared Parental Leave (SPL) both parents (or adopters) may opt to share maternity leave, meaning that the parent who is entitled to paternity leave (the father normally) is also entitled to the untaken proportion of the mother’s maternity leave and pay.

No. Leave may only be taken in blocks of 1 or 2 weeks. 

Yes.  To take paternity leave, employees must give their employer notice of their intention to take the leave by the end of the 15th week before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC) or no more than 7 days after the adoption  agency has notified them of being matched with a child in the case of adoption. However, they do not need to give specific dates at that time. To chose a period of paternity leave employees must give at least 28 days written notice before the chosen start date (if it is practical to do so) and the employee should also notify the employer of the actual date of birth. Where the child’s birth date is different from the expected date, the employee must give the employer as much notice as possible.

Employees with 26 weeks continuous service at the point of the 15th week before the child is expected to be born who also is the biological father, or the mother’s husband, or is the partner or the adopter of the child and who has or expects to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing will be, subject to giving appropriate notification and self certification, entitled to paternity leave. There is a similar set of entitlement criteria for adoptive parents.

Entitlement to Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP)  is dependent on the earnings of the individual, which need to have been at or above the National Insurance Lower Earnings Limit (LEL – see our employment law fact card and remember this is a different site – use your browser button to return here.) 

Yes, contact us or look at our  links page for further information. 

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