How Does Maternity Leave and Maternity Pay Work?

In the UK, maternity leave and maternity pay are statutory, and therefore if you qualify to receive this, your employer is legally required to pay you the specific amount and allow you the specific amount of time off. Therefore, it is important to understand what you are entitled to regarding your maternity leave and maternity pay.

Maternity leave and maternity pay in the UK is statutory, and therefore pregnant employees who meet the requirements can legally receive maternity pay and leave from their employer. Employers can offer their employees contractual maternity pay and leave, this allows an organisation to offer their employees more paid time off when choosing to have children, which is consequently more generous than the statutory allowance. The UK government is driving to enhance parental roles and have therefore introduced paternity leave and shared parental leave. It is important to understand how maternity leave and maternity pay works.

What is Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave?

Statutory maternity pay is the legal minimum pay which you employer must pay you whilst you are on maternity leave. Statutory maternity leave is the legal minimum amount of time which your employer must allow you to have off from work whilst pregnant.

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 leave, which could be more generous than what is allocated under statutory maternity pay and leave.

Statutory Maternity Leave in the UK

  • 52 weeks maternity leave in total.
  • This maternity leave can begin from 11 weeks before the due date.
  • You can go back to work 2 weeks after giving birth, or 4 weeks after giving birth if you work in a factory.

Statutory Maternity Pay in the UK

  • Statutory maternity pay is available for up to 39 weeks.
  • The first 6 weeks is equivalent to 90% of you average weekly earnings.
  • For the following 33 weeks the pay is equivalent to £148.68 or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is the lowest total.

After the sum has been decided upon, tax and national insurance will be deducted.

If you start a new job whilst you’re pregnant, and therefore have not been working there for 26 weeks when you reach the 15th week before your due date, it is unlikely that you will be eligible for statutory maternity pay.

Statutory Paternity Leave in the UK

As a father to a biological child or adopted child, you are entitled to 1 or 2 weeks of paid paternity leave. There have been recent demands for improved paternity leave, as a lot of people think that 2 weeks maximum of paid paternity leave is not enough.

Organisations can offer fathers or partners generous contractual paternity leave which is more than the statutory 2 weeks. Therefore, it is important to check your organisation’s paternity leave policy to see whether it offers more than the statutory amount.

Statutory Paternity Pay in the UK

The paternity pay which is offered to fathers during their leave equivalates to £148.68 a week or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Tax and National Insurance will also be deducted.

If a father wishes to take more than 2 weeks off to spend time with their new-born or adopted child, this will not be paid by the employer if they are receiving the statutory paternity pay.

Shared Parental Leave and Pay in the UK

Two partners can choose to take shared parental leave and shared parental pay in the first year after the child is born or adopted. The parents must meet the specific criteria to qualify for shared parental leave and pay.

  • Two parents can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them.
  • The 50 weeks of leave can be taken in different chunks or as one period. You can take these weeks off together, or one of you can go back to work, whilst the other partner is at home.
  • If you and your partner opt to take shared parental leave and pay, you need to give your employer notice of this in writing.
  • There are requirements which must be met for partners to receive shared parental leave, therefore understanding these requirements is important.

The University of Birmingham found that 10,700 new parents decided to opt for shared parental leave during the financial year 2018-2019. There has been a drive to encourage more parents to seize the benefits which taking shared parental leave can offer.

In November 2019, Goldman Sachs decided to change their approach and offer men and women the same fully paid leave for 20 weeks, after they have had a new child. This policy has been launched with the aim to ensure everyone in the workplace is receiving appropriate support when it comes to their careers and their families.

Therefore, it is important to know how maternity leave and pay works, to ensure you receive what you are entitled to.

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