Maternity Pay and Leave
Employment law- Maternity Pay and Leave
What are your general maternity rights?
Your main rights are as follows:
- As an employee, you will be entitled to up to 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave.
- You will receive Statutory Maternity Pay, provided you have been employed continuously for 26 weeks prior to the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth.
- Your contractual benefits, accrual of annual leave and employer pension contributions will continue throughout maternity leave.
- At the end of your Maternity Leave, you have the right to return to your job. If a redundancy situation arises, you must be offered suitable alternative employment if one is available.
Statutory Maternity leave
Statutory Maternity leave entitles employees to up to one year off work. This is broken down into 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave. Whilst you must be an employee to be entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave, provided you provide the correct notice, the right still stands regardless of how long you have worked for your employer, how many hours you work or how much you are paid.
Your entitlements to pay and benefits during Statutory Maternity Leave
Whilst you are on Statutory Maternity Leave your employment terms and conditions are protected. You keep your normal employment rights and benefits (excluding wages) throughout all of your Statutory Maternity Leave. Benefits such as accrual of annual leave, health club membership or health insurance will therefore continue you may also be entitled to be paid any bonus which is awarded whilst you are away on leave. If your employer contributes to an occupational pension scheme, they must carry on making their usual contributions for the whole time you are on ordinary maternity leave (the first 26 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave), for any time you are receiving any Statutory Maternity Pay and for any time you are receiving contractual maternity pay. You also build up all your entitlements to paid holiday during your Statutory Maternity Leave.
If you want to take Statutory Maternity Leave, how much notice must you give to your employer?
You must give your employer notice of your intention to take Statutory Maternity Leave at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby is due. Of course, it may be that you did not realise you were pregnant, in which case, it is required that you tell your employer as soon as possible. You need to inform them that you are pregnant, when the baby is due and when you want to commence your maternity leave, although you will be able to change this date later, provided you give at least 28 days notice.
Statutory Maternity Pay
Whilst Statutory Maternity Leave entitlement is not dependent on a qualifying period of employment, Statutory Maternity Pay is conditional upon the following:
As an employee seeking to claim Statutory Maternity Pay you must have 26 weeks’ continuous employment with the employer up to and including the 15th week before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC).
You must also have average earnings of at least the lower earnings limit for National Insurance during the eight-week period ending with the 15th week before EWC. This is currently £111 a week.
Statutory Maternity Pay is payable for 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks, 90% of your earnings are payable. For the remaining 33 weeks, you are currently only entitled to £139.58 a week (correct from 6th April 2016). Please note, however, your Maternity Pay will continue at 90% of your earnings for the full 39 weeks if your earnings constitute less than the minimum amounts stipulated.
Will you still receive Statutory Maternity Pay if you return to work during the Statutory Maternity Pay period?
The first 10 days you work during your Statutory Maternity Pay period will not affect your entitlement. After this, you will lose Statutory Maternity Pay for each week in your Statutory Maternity Pay period which you work.
If you are not an employee are you still entitled to statutory maternity pay?
If you are a worker, you may not be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay as you do not have the same automatic rights as employees. Your employer may, however, allow you to take unpaid leave, or alternatively you could take paid holiday.
What happens if you face redundancy during maternity leave?
At the end of maternity leave, you have the right to return to your original job. If a redundancy situation arises, this is one of the few areas of law where an employer is allowed to “positively discriminate”. You have the right to be offered any suitable alternative vacancy, if one is available, without an interview. This right is over and above what your colleagues are entitled to that are not on maternity leave, so you could effectively “jump the queue” in relation to a new role. The reality, however, is that employers do not always pro-actively source new positions as much as they should, so this needs to be carefully monitored. If your employer cannot offer you suitable alternative work, you may be entitled to redundancy pay.
What happens if you are dismissed during your maternity leave?
If you are dismissed during maternity leave, your leave will come to an end. If, however, you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay, you should continue to receive this for the remainder of the 39 week period.
If you are dismissed because you have been discriminated against by reason of your being on maternity leave, you may have a claim for pregnancy discrimination and you may also have a claim for unfair dismissal.
Do I have the right to work flexibly following my return from maternity leave?