Your Maternity Rights: Part 1
How long can I stay off work?
If you are an ‘employee ‘ as opposed to a ‘worker’ (casual / zero hours) then you can take up to a year of Maternity Leave, regardless of how long you have worked, amount of pay or your hours.
The first 26 weeks off are known as Ordinary Maternity Leave and after that it becomes Additional Leave.
When should I request my leave?
At least 15 weeks before your due date you should let your employer know the due date, when you wish to start your leave and when you may return. You can change your mind about the return date, but give plenty of notice if you are doing so. It would be wise to ask your employer to confirm all dates in writing so there can be no misunderstanding. Once informed, your employer may ask to see medical certification eg MAT B1 Form which you should be given at an antenatal appointment after your 20-week scan.
Once you tell your employer, you are then entitled to maternity rights at work and a risk assessment should be carried out and any appropriate adjustments made. You become entitled to paid time off for antenatal / parenting / relaxation classes and appointments etc. This also applies to agency workers if they have been working for the same employer for at least 12 weeks in a row. An employer can’t make you work extra time.
Your leave can begin from 11 weeks before the due date. It can start earlier if the baby is early or you have to be off work with pregnancy related illness in the 4 weeks before the due date.
Do I return to my same job?
If you have been on Maternity Leave for 26 weeks or less then you are entitled to return to the same job. Pay and conditions must be the same or better than if you had not taken leave. It would be considered to be unfair dismissal or discrimination if you were told you could not return to the same position.
If you have taken more than 26 weeks leave, it could still be considered unfair or discriminatory if your employer does not let you return to work or offers you a different job without really good reasons. You cannot be offered a different job if your job still exists and someone else is doing it, or it would still exist if you had not taken leave. You should not be returning to worse conditions or less pay.
Can I take longer than 1 year?
You have no legal right to do this, but an employer may agree to extend your leave. You could not expect any Maternity Rights as this would not be classed as Maternity Leave.
You would need to discuss with your employer whether you would be able to return to the same job and whether you would be paid. Also check whether the extra leave would count as a break in employment.
What happens about holiday entitlement whilst I am on leave?
You continue to build it up as normal. If unable to take it because you are on Maternity Leave, you should be able to carry over 5 -6 weeks of unused days into the next holiday year.
What if I wish to work flexibly or change hours when I return?
You can ask, but your employer does not have to agree. There should be a constructive discussion and any refusal should be backed up with reasons. Of course, an employer would need to consider the needs of the business and impact on other staff.
If you would like more specific detailed advice please do contact us.
Part 2 - Maternity Money is to follow…