Employment Protection for Mothers

Mothers-to-be have a number of rights and are well protected when employed and pregnant...

If the mother-to-be has been working for her employer for a certain amount of time before getting pregnant, she is eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). This pay is offered to all residents of the UK, whether they are British or not, if they satisfy the criteria. SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks. Statutory Maternity Leave (SML), the time which can be taken away from work as an employment entitlement, is set at 52 weeks. Those who have adopted a child

To be eligible for SMP, the woman must have been:

  • Employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks into the 15th week before the week the baby is due - called the qualifying week
  • Earning an amount that equals the lower earnings limit (this is the amount that a person has to earn before paying National Insurance contributions). This applies on the Saturday at the end of the qualifying week

To claim for SMP, a woman must provide her employer with medical evidence that she is pregnant, plus tell the employer when she wants the SMP to start. It may be necessary to do this in writing. The medical evidence is usually in the form of a maternity certificate given to the woman by her doctor or midwife in the 21st week of pregnancy. The mother-to-be must give her employer at least 28 days notice of the date from which she wants the SMP to begin.

  • For concise information on how to claim SMP: Click here

The first six weeks of SMP are paid at 90 percent of the average gross weekly earnings of the mother-to-be. The remaining 33 weeks is paid at either a standard rate or 90 per cent of the average gross weekly earnings, whichever is the lower.

Maternity Allowance

Women not eligible for SMP may be able to claim Maternity Allowance (MA):

Normally a mother-to-be will get MA if:

  • She is employed but doesn't get SMP
  • She is registered as self-employed
  • She has been very recently employed
  • She earns £30 a week averaged over any 13 weeks in the 66 weeks up to and including the week the baby is due

MA is paid for a maximum of 39 weeks at either a standard rate or 90 per cent of the average gross weekly earnings, whichever is the lower.

  • Tel: 0800 055 6688 from 08:00-20:00, Monday to Friday
  • For information on MA and how to claim: Click here
  • The Department for Work and Pensions has a guide on maternity benefits: Click here

Maternity Leave

It is usual for women to take maternity leave from work. Statutory Maternity Leave is for 52 weeks, which is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave which makes one year altogether.

To qualify, a woman must be an employee, and tell her employer that she is pregnant before the end of the 15th week before the baby is due. She must also tell them the expected week of childbirth and the date they intend the maternity leave to begin.

The employer must then confirm the return date in writing within 28 days. This date can be changed by the woman provided she gives the employer eight weeks' notice.

  • For information on Statutory Maternity Leave: Click here

Paternity Leave

Fathers can take up to two weeks of Ordinary Paternity leave within 56 days of the baby's arrival, and up to 26 weeks of Additional Paternity Leave. This 26-week entitlement is shared with the mother, and can only be taken if she has returned to work.

Flexible Working

Following the birth of their baby, or an adoption, parents may request flexible working. This may be home working, part time, flexible hours or other options. Employers may only refuse if there are good business reasons for doing so.

Parental Leave

Parents of children under five (or 18 if the child is disabled) are entitled to unpaid parental leave. To qualify, the parent must be an employee. Each parent is entitled to up to 13 weeks of unpaid leave until the child is five.

Further Information