• Leave Management

Maternity Leave: pay, entitlement and benefits

Isadora De Angeli

Maternity leave aims to protect working females before and after childbirth. Employees looking forward to having a new baby will need to take some time off work. 

Most countries have embraced maternity breaks for new mothers and paternity leaves for fathers. However, statutory leave entitlements and payments differ depending on the country of residence. Employers can add to the leave duration and payments more than legitimately required.

In the United Kingdom, new parents are entitled to maternity leave. This leave supports employed new mothers, and the government pays their compensations while on leave.

A detailed explanation of the UK maternity leave

You must inform your employer about your pregnancy and due date to get maternity leave. It is compulsory to provide evidence of your pregnancy with a MATB1 health practitioner’s documentation, a guarantee of payroll, and communicate your preferred period to begin the leave and when you will be back at work.

Notify your employer about the required particulars, either vocally or via email, 15 weeks before you start maternity leave. You will be given 28 days to alter the start date and eight weeks to modify the resuming date from when you told your employer.

The new mothers get statutory maternity leave in the UK for up to 52 weeks. The initial 26 weeks are considered ordinary maternity leave, and the last 26 weeks are termed additional leave. The leave can commence 11 weeks before the expected birth, and employees must take a minimum of two weeks off after birth. They also receive a 39 weeks statutory pay guarantee of return to work.

If the child comes earlier than expected, the break commences a day after the birth. If you are not at work due to pregnancy illnesses, your leave involuntarily begins four weeks before the stated due date.

It is not a must to take up the entire 52 weeks' leave, but the least duration for factory employees is four weeks. Notably, this time off work does not count towards the annual leave. You can share the leave, where the father takes one to two consecutive weeks to take care of the newborn at home. However, the mother is entitled to take care of the little one in the first two weeks after birth.


Maternity off duty payments

The payments include:

  • Statutory maternity pay
  • Contractual maternity pay
  • Maternity allowance

Statutory maternity pay

Any worker must receive maternity pay if they have been continually working for an employer for 26 weeks. They should receive an average income of £120 per week for a minimum of eight weeks before the qualifying week. You will be paid statutory maternity pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks and receive 90% of your average weekly income before tax is reimbursed in the initial six weeks. In the following 33 weeks, 90% or £151.20 of the employee's average weekly wages is lower. It is essential to note that Statutory maternity pay is payable similarly to your wages, for instance, monthly or weekly. However, Tax and National Insurance are deducted. SMP begins when you take your maternity leave and automatically if you are away from work because of pregnancy-related illnesses in the four weeks before the week that your child is due.

Contractual maternity pay

Contractual maternity pay is also known as occupational maternity pay. It is an addition to the SMP by the employer, and it could be any amount. For example, an employer might only give an additional £10 per week to the SMP. Providing OMP for employers is optional. Most employers give out contractual maternity pay to boost their organisation’s positive reputation.

Maternity allowance

In the United Kingdom, workers are qualified for maternity allowance if they are not eligible for statutory maternity pay. You qualify for maternity allowance if you have been employed or self-employed for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before your due date. You will need to have earned at least £30 a week for at least 13 of those weeks. You can get MA if you have not been employed or self-employed, but your spouse or civil partner runs a business, and you have been helping them out.


To be eligible for SMP, you should have a minimum average income of £120 a week and provide credible proof that you are expectant. You also need to have been on duty continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the 15th week, before your due date week.


How to manage maternity protection properly

The law protects employees against unfair treatment and dismissal because they have taken maternity off duty or childbirth. However, it is essential to know your maternity rights and follow protocol and guidelines.

Time off for pregnancy appointments

You are entitled to time off with full pay for pregnancy-related appointments and care before the baby's birth. The antenatal appointment needs to be recommended by a doctor, and they may include:

  • Pregnancy health checks
  • Scans
  • Parentcraft classes
  • Relaxation classes, e.g. yoga

Health at work during pregnancy

If your job poses a health and safety risk to you and your unborn child, the employer should remove the risk for you. This can include temporarily changing your job description if something more suitable is available. If you are experiencing a challenging pregnancy, it is advisable to ask for a change in your working arrangements or more permanent changes, such as requesting a flexible working strategy. Also, your employer must give you a break on full pay until the health and safety risk is removed or you start maternity paid off duty.

Returning to work after childbirth

You are eligible to return to work on the same terms you left, even with the additional maternity leave. The terms that must be the same include:

  • Benefits
  • Pay
  • Holiday entitlements
  • Seniority

You can also make a flexible working request if you want to change your duties or hours after you return from maternity leave. Additionally, your employer must provide a suitable place to rest if you are breastfeeding.

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