Maternity Leave

Maternity Leave

Employees are entitled to 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks additional maternity leave. This combined 52 weeks is known as Statutory Maternity leave.

Notifying your employer and starting Statutory Maternity Leave

At least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby is due (known as the Qualifying week), or as soon as you can if this is not possible, you must inform your employer:

  • That you are pregnant
  • The week in which your doctor or midwife expects you to give birth
  • That date on which you would like to start your maternity leave

Your employer may request a certificate from your doctor known as a MAT B1 form confirming your expected week of childbirth.

The earliest you can start maternity leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth.

Maternity Pay

Statutory Maternity Pay is payable for up to 39 weeks.  You are entitled to SMP if:

  • You have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks at the end of the qualifying week;
  • Your average weekly earnings during the eight weeks ending with the qualifying period are not less than the lower earnings limit set by the government.  This is the amount which you can earn before you pay National Insurance Contributions.  In the tax year 2015/2016 this is £112 per week.
  • You provide your employer with a MAT B1 Form
  • You give at least 28 day’s notice (or if that is not possible, as much notice as you can) that you intend to take maternity leave.

The first 6 weeks will be paid at 90% of your average weekly earnings with no upper limit and the remaining 33 weeks will be paid at the lower of either, a rate which is set by the government (currently £139.58) or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings.

The above information relates to Statutory Maternity Leave.  Employees should always check their contracts of employment or staff handbook as, in some instances, they may be entitled to more generous contractual terms in relation to Maternity Leave and/or Pay.

Terms and Conditions during Maternity Leave

Holiday entitlement will continue to accrue at the rate provided under your contract and, as a general rule, employees returning from OML are entitled to return to work in the same position they held before going on maternity leave.  An employee’s terms of employment should be the same as they would have been, had they not taken maternity leave.

This also applies when you return from AML, however, if your employer shows it is not reasonably practical to return to your original job (for example because the job no longer exists) you must be offered alternative work on the same terms and conditions as if you had not been on maternity leave.

The Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999 and the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 make it unlawful for female employees to be subjected to a detriment or dismissed by reason of the fact that they have given birth to a child, are pregnant and/or the fact that they have availed of, or intend to avail of, their statutory right to maternity leave.

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