Finding out that you are going to be a new mother can be an exciting time, but it can also come with daunting complications, such as how will being an expectant mother affect my work? An expectant mother in the United Kingdom (UK) is entitled to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave, if they meet the requirements. It is an employer's responsibility to ensure there are no health and safety risks present in the workplace which could negatively affect an employee's pregnancy. Understanding your rights as a pregnant employee and your entitlement to maternity leave is of the utmost importance.
What is Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay?
In the UK, if you are a pregnant employee, you are eligible to statutory maternity leave and statutory maternity pay.
Statutory maternity leave is the legal amount of time which an employer must allow an expectant mother to have off work prior to giving birth and after giving birth.
Statutory maternity pay is the legal minimum wage which an employer must pay to a pregnant employee, whilst they are on 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.
Your employer might decide to offer their employees contractual maternity pay and maternity leave, which can be more generous than statutory maternity pay and leave. Therefore, when applying for jobs, an attractive feature of a company could be the additional maternity pay and leave which they offer to employees.
Statutory Maternity Leave:
- You are eligible to 52 weeks statutory maternity leave altogether.
- You can start your maternity leave from 11 weeks before the week of your due date.
- After you have given birth, you must legally have 2 weeks off before you return to work, and 4 weeks off before you return to work if you work in a factory.
- Therefore, you do not have to take all of the 52 weeks off of work, but you cannot return to work within 2 weeks after giving birth.
Statutory Maternity Pay:
- You are eligible to 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay whilst you are on maternity leave.
- For the first 6 weeks: You are entitled to 90% of you average weekly earnings before tax is applied.
- For the following 33 weeks: You are entitled to £148.68 or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is the lowest total.
- Statutory maternity pay is taxed and national insurance is applied.
Therefore, it is important to know what maternity leave and pay you are entitled to, so that you receive the appropriate support which is available.
In the UK there are a range of companies which are beginning to offer generous maternity leave schemes to attract potential mothers and fathers to their company. Accenture, a multinational professional services company, offers a very generous policy to mothers and fathers in the organisation, who have either given birth to a new child or have adopted a child. The policy offers the new and expectant parents 36 weeks leave which is fully paid. These emerging policies are driving to improve the work and family-life balance in the UK.
The government commissioned research in 2016 which found that 1 in 9 women lost their job as a result of discrimination and unfair treatment related to their pregnancy. Currently, there is an effort to ensure all new and expectant mothers are treated fairly in the workplace. To ensure that you are treated fairly and have a safe and enjoyable pregnancy, understanding what maternity leave you are entitled to is of the utmost importance.