Here we explain in brief certain maternity rights, issues regarding leave and pay

Women have legal right not to be discriminated against because they are pregnant or on maternity.

Paid Time Off For Ante-Natal Care

·         Pregnant women are entitled to time off from work to attend ante-natal classes.

·         A pregnant woman is entitle to be paid for the period of her absence from work.

·         No qualifying period is necessary for this employment right.

Health and Safety Risk Assessment


  • A prudent employer would carry out a Health and Safety risk assessment.
  •  There is no general obligation to carry out a risk assessment. In O’Neil v Buckinghamshire County Council (2010) IRLR 384, the EAT held  an employer only has a duty to carry out a risk assessment when:

1.       The employee notified the employer of her pregnancy; and

2.       The work carried out by the employee is of the kind that involves a risk of harm or danger to the health and safety of the mother and/ or her baby; and

3.       The risk in question arises from either the processes, work conditions or physical, chemical or biological agents in the workplace.

Maternity Leave


  • A pregnant woman in the work place has the right to 52 weeks maternity leave.
  • 26 weeks will be ordinary maternity leave.
  • The second 26 weeks is called additional maternity leave.
  • To qualify for maternity leave the pregnant employee must advise her employer on or before the 15th weeks before childbirth:
  •  The employee is pregnant.
  •   The date the employee intends to start maternity leave which can be any time from the 11th week before the date of birth.
  •   An employer must then give the employee notice of her return date which an employee is entitled to change; provided the employer is given eight weeks’ notice.
  •  If the child is born early, the maternity leave starts the day after the birth of the baby.

During maternity leave an employer and employee can agree up to 10 keep in touch days; however this does not confer a right on the employer. Accordingly the employee does not have to agree to it.

Compulsory Maternity Leave

Employees must have at least two weeks off after child birth. If the employee works in a factory, then it is at least four weeks.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

  • This is available only for eligible employees for up to 39 weeks.
  • An employee is eligible for SMP if they have worked continuously for their employer for 26 weeks up to the qualifying week – the 15th week before the expected week of child birth.
  •  The first 6 weeks the employee will obtain 90% of their average weekly wage before tax.
  • The remaining 33 weeks the lowest of £139.58 or 90% of their average weekly wage. This is paid in the same manner as income and is therefore subject to tax and NI.
  •  If the baby unfortunately dies after being born or is still born after the 24th week of pregnancy, the employee will still be entitled to leave or pay.

Maternity Allowance

  • Women who do not qualify for SMP may be able to obtain a maternity allowance for a period of up to 39 weeks.
  • The person must have been employed or self-employed for 26 weeks out of 66 weeks before the expected week of child birth.
  • The allowance is £139.58 per week (or 90% of average earnings whichever is the lowest figure) and is tax free.  
  • Payment starts 11 weeks before the baby is due.

Pregnancy Related-Illness

Maternity leave and statutory maternity pay will start automatically if an employee has a pregnancy related illness in the last four weeks before the baby is due.

Holiday entitlement

  • An employee is entitled to holiday as specified in their contract of employment and this includes mothers on maternity leave.
  • The holiday entitlement of the employee on maternity leave will accrue as if they were still at work in the office. Some mothers simply add the holiday entitlement to their maternity leave.
  • If the holiday is not taken, the government allows up to 28 days to be carried over to the following leave year. This is a factor you should discuss with your employer.

Shared Parental Leave

The law has been reformed so that leave can be shared between parents.

  • Shared Parental Leave Pay is £139.58 per week (or 90% of average earnings whichever is the lowest figure) and is tax free.  Payment starts 11 weeks before the baby is due.

We have a separate page for maternity and pregnancy discrimination issues which can be found by clicking here