Understanding Your Maternity Leave and Pay
When you’re a mum-to-be it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to preparing for your new arrival - especially if it’s your first time! With so much information floating around nowadays, one topic that may be a little overwhelming is your rights when it comes to maternity leave and pay.
Here at Metanium HQ we understand it’s not an easy topic to start talking about. To give our expecting parents a helping hand we’ve compiled a maternity leave guide which will hopefully resolve all of your unanswered questions.
With so much information floating around nowadays, one topic that may be a little overwhelming is your rights when it comes to maternity leave and pay.
Here at Metanium HQ we understand maternity leave and pay is not an easy topic to start talking about. To give our expecting parents a helping hand we’ve compiled a maternity leave guide which will hopefully resolve all of your unanswered questions.
HOW LONG IS MATERNITY LEAVE AND WHAT IS MATERNITY PAY?
In the UK, it’s actually compulsory for new mothers to take the first two weeks off after having a baby (four weeks if you work in a factory)? This is to ensure you get some well-deserved recovery time following your delivery, and allows you to spend some precious one-on-one time with your newborn. After this, it is completely up to you on how much maternity leave you take.
No matter how long you have worked for your employer, all employed women are legally allowed to take ‘statutory maternity leave’ for up to 52 weeks. In regards to pay, you will be paid for up to 39 weeks of this. In most cases, pay entitlement is as follows:
- For the first six weeks you get 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax).
- For the next 33 weeks you get whichever is lower: £145.68, or 90% of your average weekly earnings.
- The remaining weeks between 40-52 will be unpaid, however legally, your job will still be waiting for you when you return to work.
- You will be paid exactly how your employer normally pays you i.e. if you are normally paid monthly, you will be paid monthly.
- Taxes and national health insurance will automatically be deducted for your payments.
If you’d like an estimated guide on what you may be entitled to during maternity leave, you can use this maternity leave calculator to find out. Don’t forget to check with a HR manager too in regards to your leave, as some businesses offer special maternity benefits for their employees! If you think you may not be eligible for maternity pay, or are currently self-employed, the government also provide maternity allowances which you can read more about here.
WHEN CAN MATERNITY LEAVE START?
It completely depends on your situation when it comes to starting your maternity leave. We advise speaking with your health care professional or midwife first when deciding what date to leave work, but as long as you're capable of doing so, you can keep on working up until the day your baby is born. The same applies for if your baby is born early, and your maternity leave will simply start from the very next day.
If you want to leave earlier than this to prepare for your little one’s arrival, you can leave at most 11 weeks before the expected week of your baby’s birth. Maternity pay will typically start at the same time as the leave; employers may request a doctor's note or birth certificate stating your baby’s birth, just so they can keep track of your return.
If you are unable to work due to a pregnancy related illness in the last four weeks before you baby is due, your maternity leave will automatically start.
WHO CAN GET MATERNITY LEAVE AND PAY?
Although all new mothers are entitled to statutory maternity leave, there are a few conditions to keep in mind when thinking about your maternity pay. The government state what must be met to be eligible for maternity pay:
- You must of been on your employers payroll in what they call the ‘qualifying week’ - the 15th week before your baby’s expected due date.
- Where possible, it is advised to give your employer at least 28 days notice before taking leave.
- You should have provided proof of your pregnancy to your employer i.e. with a doctor's note or maternity certificate.
- You will have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks prior to the ‘qualifying week’.
There are some situations where this may differ, for example if you become sick or your baby is born prematurely; you can read more on these conditions here.
HOW DO I ARRANGE MATERNITY LEAVE?
You can notify your employer of leave at any point during your pregnancy, but it must be at least 15 weeks before your due date - so make sure not to keep your little one a secret for too long! Although we understand it can be quite a sensitive topic to approach, there are a few of the benefits of notifying your employer sooner rather than later:
- Once your employer knows about your pregnancy, you will be able to discuss any health and safety risks that are specific to you; especially if you have a job that is quite manual.
- You can start to discuss your annual leave arrangements, for example, you will build up holidays whilst on maternity leave but cannot take them whilst on it. Instead you could choose to take these holidays before you start your leave, or alternatively at the end of your leave to have some extra time at home with your beautiful new baby.
- If your employer knows about your pregnancy, it will be easier to explain the increase in doctors appointments over the next few months.
- If you have any maternity packages in your contract, you can start to discuss additional maternity leave.
Once you have provided notice to your employer, they must respond within 28 days with a written confirmation of your maternity leave, and your expected return to work date.
EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS DURING MATERNITY LEAVE
Any employment terms you may have in your contract are protected whilst you’re on statutory maternity leave, however some terms may change during the last 12 weeks - for example, employers are not obliged to continue making pension contributions during the time where your pay decreases. Again, this may be dependant on your contract, so it’s always best to discuss any questions you have with your employer.
If you’re made redundant while on maternity leave, you also have extra rights.
RETURNING TO WORK AFTER MATERNITY LEAVE
There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to returning to work, it’s completely up to you to decide when you’re ready! Whether you return to work sooner, or choose to take a little more time at home, every mother is entitled to make their own decision.
When it comes to your job role, you have the right to return to your old job if you take up to 26 weeks of maternity leave; if you take more than his but still fall within the maximum 52 weeks of statutory leave, you still have the right to return to a similar job, i.e. one that offers the same work conditions or better. It’s wise to ensure you have a set return to work date with your boss in advance of your baby’s arrival, just to ensure everyone is on the same page. Don’t worry if things happen once your baby is born that may change your mind on your return; simply notify your workplace of the change within eight weeks notice of the originally agreed date.
ATTENDING ANTENATAL APPOINTMENTS
Within reason, all pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for any antenatal care or appointments. Have in mind that your employer may require to see an appointment card to verify, so make sure to ask for this at your first appointment. Any expectant partners of pregnant women are also entitled to take time off for two antenatal appointments, however this time is usually unpaid and limited to six and a half hours per appointment. Parents with a surrogacy arrangement who qualify for, and intend to apply for a Parental Order also have this right.
WHAT IF I’M ADOPTING OR HAVING A BABY BY SURROGACY?
Whether you’re adopting a new baby or having a baby through surrogacy, the eligibility criteria for maternity leave and pay are pretty much the same - you can see them listed here. Employees who have been matched with a child through adoption, or have a child on the way via surrogacy, may also take up to 52 weeks leave, and may be entitled to statutory pay - this is called adoption leave and pay. If you’re adopting as a couple, only one parent can take adoption leave, with the other taking a typical ‘paternity leave’.
Adoption leave can start the day of the birth of your baby, or the day after. Employees must tell their employers at least 15 weeks before the baby is due that they intend to take adoption leave.
If you are adopting a baby that is already born, you must tell your employer you plan to take leave within 7 days of being matched with a child. Instead of supplying a date of birth, you can notify your employer of your ‘date of placement’ with your child - which is the date your adoption leave would officially start.
If you are hoping for statutory adoption pay, you must give your employer 28 days notice before starting your adoption leave. Your employer then has 28 days to confirm both your leaving date, and how much statutory adoption pay you are eligible (in most cases it will be the same amount as maternity leave mentioned above).
We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, so if you’re uncertain about what to do when it comes to your maternity leave, we recommend speaking your partner, loved ones, a healthcare professional or other parents around you whose opinions you trust. Don’t worry, the most important thing to think about is how you’ll have a beautiful new baby very soon - congratulations!
Stay tuned for part two where we discuss paternity and shared leave <3
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