Your maternity leave, pay and rights

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The practicalities of having a little person enter your life can feel a bit overwhelming. Particularly the impact that little person will have on your work. Knowing your rights when it comes to maternity leave and pay is such an important step to feeling like you’ve got this, mama, because guess what? You have got this. So let’s dive in.

Every woman in the UK has maternity rights by law, whether they work full time or part time. You are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is called Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and the second 26 weeks is called Additional Maternity Leave (AML).

The difference is that after OML you have the right to return to exactly the same workplace and role whereas after AML you have the right to return to the same workplace but your employer can offer you a slightly different role. You can start maternity leave up to 11 weeks before baby arrives.

So what about pay? Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) in the UK is paid up to 39 weeks. SMP means you get 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks, and then £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. If you take the full 52 weeks of maternity, this means you may not be paid for the last 13 weeks. It’s up to your employer.

You can tell your employer that you’re pregnant when you feel comfortable. But legally you must tell them at least 15 weeks before your due date, so at about week 25. You can ask for a MATB1 form from your GP or midwife from 20 weeks onwards. This will give your employer all the information they need, such as confirmation that you’re pregnant and the week you’re expected to give birth.

Maternity leave is a very personal decision, but hopefully these facts have given you a good start in the process.