Maternity rights: leave and pay entitlement

Parenting is a full time job. Read about your maternity and paternity rights to see what you’re entitled to from work.

In Pregnancy

    2-minutes read

    At a glance

    Take up to 52 weeks off with statutory maternity leave

    You could get up to 39 weeks statutory pay


    Maternity leave can begin as early as 11 weeks before baby is due

    You still have employment rights throughout leave

    This article was written in August 2018 and information provided in it may be subject to change as maternity rights in the UK evolve.

    Before you get the additional job title of ‘mum’ it’s a good idea to take care of more official business. Just in case you’re wondering, you need to tell your employer at least 15 weeks before you’re due. Although… you probably won’t be able to hide your bump under loose clothing that long anyway.

    Before you get to week 25 here’s a few useful things to know about maternity leave and pay to make sure everything’s under control before things get real.

    How long can I have off with baby?

    From those who are new at work to those who feel like part of the furniture, every new mum is entitled to a whole year off. The only difference is pay – more on that later.

    You don’t even have to wait until your baby is here. If you’d prefer to prepare and rest in the last weeks of pregnancy you can start your leave as early as 11 weeks before baby is due. Or else you can keep working and go off when baby arrives, leaving more time for cuddles.

    You don’t have to take all 52 weeks. If you’re missing your job (or the pay) you can get back sooner. But the minimum time off is two weeks to recuperate, or four weeks if you work in a factory.

    What about my partner?


    While as the main caregiver you get up to 52 weeks, your partner is entitled to two weeks paid leave in the first 56 days of baby’s birth. This applies for all parents, including if you have adopted or used a surrogate. Unless you choose to split your leave – more on that below.

    Shared leave

    You might both want time off during baby’s first year. In which case you might be able to get up to 50 weeks off between you, or 37 paid weeks under the Shared Parental Leave Scheme. You can either take the time off together or split it up. But mums have to take two weeks after giving birth. Make sure you ask your employer if your company offers shared parental leave - it’s not a given.

    What’s the money situation?

    If you’ve been at your job for a full 26 weeks by the time you are 15 weeks pregnant then you’ll be happy to know you qualify for statutory maternity pay.

    Statutory pay lasts up to 39 weeks. Those first six weeks you’ll get 90% of your average weekly earnings, before tax. The remaining 33 weeks will be either £140.98 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower. If you’re not sure, have a play with this maternity pay calculator to see what you should be getting.

    Telling the boss


    Like we mentioned earlier, you don’t have to say anything until your 25th week of pregnancy.

    Whenever you’re planning on starting maternity leave just remember that your employer needs to have 28 days notice for you to be paid statutory maternity pay on time. This may need to be put in writing. Oh, and unfortunately your bump isn’t evidence enough, you actually have to prove your pregnancy with a MAT B1 form. You should get one of these after your 20-week scan but you may want to remind your midwife if you need one.

    Staying safe at work

    It’s understandable if you’re not ready to tell the boss right away, but just so you know, the sooner you do say something the sooner your safety and wellbeing will be taken care of. Once your employer knows they’ll need to complete a risk assessment of your job.

    They’ll check if you’re:

    • standing or sitting for long periods
    • working long hours or nights
    • lifting heavy loads
    • exposed to toxic substances

    If it’s not possible to make changes to the day-to-day tasks within your role then your employer will need to offer you a different position with the same pay.

    My rights while I’m away

    While you’re on maternity leave you have the exact same employment rights as before. Which means you can build up holiday pay and you’re not excluded from pay rises.

    In case you’re worried, employers aren’t allowed to use pregnancy as an excuse to make you redundant. So that should set your mind at ease while you’re off.

    You may have heard of ‘keeping in touch days’. Your employer might offer you these so you can ease back into work. It’s ten paid work days you can use throughout your maternity leave. They’re optional, and can be arranged with your boss to suit you, so see how you feel.


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    Important advice to mothers

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. SMA® Nutrition fully supports this and continued breastfeeding, along with the introduction of complementary foods as advised by your healthcare professional.