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Maternity Leave and Rights

What are your rights?

Firstly, employers are always free to agree more favourable contractual terms with their employees. It is not, however, possible for an employee to agree to less favourable terms than the statutory regime provides:

Employment Rights whilst in employment and on leave

Your employment rights are protected. These rights include:

  • Time off for antenatal appointments.
  • Health and safety protection while pregnant and breastfeeding.
  • Up to 52 weeks' maternity leave. Employees are entitled to one year's statutory maternity leave (made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave (OML) and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave (AML), regardless of length of service. With effect from 5 April 2015, up to 50 weeks of this can be shared with the father under the new Shared Parental Leave scheme (SPL).
  • Statutory maternity Pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks
  • The right to return to the same job, or to a similar job under the same terms and conditions following AML.
  • Priority for alternative employment in redundancy cases above other employees, even if other employees are more suitable.
  • The right to request flexible working conditions on return to work.
  • Protection from dismissal, detriment or discrimination by reason of pregnancy or maternity.


To qualify for statutory maternity leave (SML) you need to:

  1. Be an employee (not a worker); and
  2. Give the correct notice:
    a.   At least 28 days prior to taking statutory maternity leave; and
    b.   Providing the employer with proof of pregnancy.


Statutory maternity leave can start:

  • Up to 11 weeks prior to the expected week of birth; or
  • The day after the birth (if premature birth); or
  • On the commencement of any pregnancy related ill-health absence from work in the 4 weeks prior to the expected week of birth.

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