Statutory maternity leave in the UK is a total of 52 weeks for pregnant employees who meet the requirements. Company maternity schemes sometimes offer employees more maternity leave than the statutory amount, as well as higher maternity pay than is statutory. Therefore, when you become pregnant, it is important to understand what maternity leave you are entitled to.
Statutory Maternity Leave
You are entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave if you are an employee and you give your employer enough notice.
You are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay if:
- You earn on average £118 a week or more.
- You have worked for your employer for 26 weeks when you reach the 15th week before your due date.
Statutory Maternity Leave = 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave + 26 weeks of additional maternity leave.
The earliest that you can begin your statutory maternity leave is 11 weeks before your due date. If you must take time off work for a pregnancy related illness, during the 4 weeks before your due date, your maternity leave will effectively start then. You don't have to take the entire 52 weeks maternity leave from work, but legally you can't return to work within the first 2 weeks after giving birth, or the first 4 weeks if you work in a factory.
Whilst you continue to work during your pregnancy, there might be times when you must take time off for an antenatal appointment. Antenatal appointments include doctors' appointments and parental classes which have been advised by your doctor or midwife. Your employer must continue to pay you for the time off which you have for antenatal appointments.
Contractual Maternity Scheme
Your employer might choose to use contractual maternity schemes opposed to statutory leave and pay. Contractual maternity schemes allow employers to offer more generous maternity leave and maternity pay. A company's tailored maternity scheme must be accessible to employees, to ensure they know what they are entitled to when they fall pregnant.
Regarding company maternity schemes in the UK, there are some notably generous schemes which can make becoming a parent far more enjoyable. Therefore, when you are applying to new jobs, it is important for potential mothers and fathers to review the company's maternity scheme, to see whether it is accommodating of new and expectant parents.
- Accenture, a professional services firm, offers mothers and fathers who have given birth to or adopted a child a fully paid 36 weeks leave.
- M&G, a renowned investment management firm, entices employees in with childcare vouchers and maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave packages.
- Vodafone, a multinational telecommunications firm, offers new parents 16 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, with an additional 6 months where new parents can work 30-hours during a 4-day week, which is fully paid.
Therefore, understanding your rights as a new and expectant parent is of the utmost importance to protect your own health and safety and your child's.