maternity leave

(Updated February 2024)

Maternity Leave is split into two types, Ordinary and Additional. Here we look at who is entitled, what your entitlements are and returning to work.

Ordinary Maternity Leave lasts for 26 weeks and all Employees are eligible for this regardless of their length of service with their employer.

Workers and Freelancers aren’t generally entitled to this but may be entitled to some form of Maternity Pay. Those who have their own Limited Companies (Personal Service Companies) are eligible as ’employees’ of their own Limited Company – and may be eligible to maternity pay.

Who qualifies for ordinary maternity leave?

To qualify a woman must tell her employer by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC):

  • That she is pregnant
  • What the expected week of childbirth should be, by means of a medical certificate MatB1
  • The date she intends to start her leave. This can normally be any date as long it is not earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the EWC. You can change your mind about when you want to start leave providing you give your employer 28 days notice.
  • If you are sick with a pregnancy related illness during the 4 weeks before your EWC your ‘ordinary’ maternity leave will start automatically.

Maternity Pay

  • You can see details about Maternity Pay here
  • From 7th April 2024 Statutory Maternity Pay increases to £184.03 per week.
  • From 2015, parents will be able to share parental leave
  • If you are employed on a Fixed Term (Employee) or Casual Contract (Worker) when pregnant you are likely to be entitled to some form of Maternity Pay (if you pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions) – see the chart above.  If your contract ends during your ordinary maternity pay period you will continue to receive SMP or Maternity Allowance for its total duration, even if your contract ends before this.
  • Freelancers aren’t usually entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (or adoption pay, paternity leave, parental leave) as this is only available to Employees and Workers (ie those paid via PAYE and who pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions).  Freelancers who work under a contract for service and invoice for payment are not eligible.  You may however be eligible for State Maternity Allowance (see the above chart).
  • There are no age restrictions to receiving statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.

Protection in Redundancy Situations

In 2019 the Government announced a proposed Employment Bill, which would extend protection from discrimination in redundancy situations for those who are pregnant, or returning from maternity leave, adoption or shared parental leave.  But in the Queen’s Speech in May 2022, the Employment Bill was absent again.  In May 2023 the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Act 2023 passed into law, and will come into force on 6th April 2024.  This means that in redundancy scenarios, where an employer is obliged to offer someone on maternity/adoption/shared parental leave, any suitable alternative vacancy the Employer has as a priority; this act extends this protection period to cover any period of pregnancy/adoption/shared parental leave for 18 months.  See our new article here for full details.

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