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What are your rights if you are an employee expecting a baby ?

Time off to attend ante-natal care appointments

First of all, you are entitled to time off during working hours to attend ante-natal care appointments unless your employer has reasonable grounds for refusing the time off. It is likely to be a rare occasion when it will be reasonable to refuse a request for time off to attend an appointment. You are also entitled to be paid for the time off which will include the time travelling to and from the appointments.

The right to ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave

Regardless of your length of service, you are entitled to an ordinary maternity leave period of 26 weeks and additional maternity leave of a further 26 weeks after that provided that you give your employer certain details no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of the birth. These details are the fact that you are pregnant, the date of your expected week of childbirth and the date on which you intend to start your maternity leave period. You cannot start the leave earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of the birth unless you give birth before that time.

What rights do you have during the ordinary and additional maternity leave periods ?

Under the maternity legislation, you are entitled for the whole of the maternity leave periods to the benefit of all the terms of your employment that would have applied if you had not been away except those relating to remuneration. In other words, you will continue to enjoy your contractual benefits which might, for example, include life insurance, private medical cover and private use of a Company car. You will continue to accrue holiday entitlement during the maternity absence. You will not have the benefit of terms relating to remuneration which means wages. Your right to receive wages will depend on whether or not you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).

To be entitled to SMP you must by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of the birth have completed 26 weeks’ continuous employment with your employer and your average weekly earnings in the eight weeks before the end of that 15th week must be equal to at least the lower earnings limit for the payment of Class 1 NI contributions. You must also still be pregnant at the 11th week before the expected week of birth or have had the baby at that time.

The maternity pay period is 39 weeks. The rate of SMP is 90% of your normal weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks of maternity leave. For the remaining 33 weeks, it is the lower statutory rate (or 90% of weekly earnings if that is less than the statutory rate).

What happens at the end of maternity leave ?

Your right at the end of maternity leave is to return to the job in which you were employed before your absence on the same terms that would have applied if you had not been away. This means, for example, that you will have the benefit of any pay increases that have been awarded while you have been absent.

Statutory paternity leave and statutory paternity pay

Your baby’s father will be entitled to paid paternity leave of up to 2 weeks to care for the baby or to support you provided that he has been continuously employed by his employer for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of birth. The 2 weeks must be taken consecutively. The rate of pay is equivalent to the lower SMP rate (or 90% of normal weekly earnings if that is less). The leave cannot start before the day of the child’s birth and it must be completed within 56 days after the birth.

If you have a husband or partner who is not the baby’s father but who will have the main responsibility (apart from you) for bringing up the baby, then he or she will have the same right to paid paternity leave.

An employee may be entitled to additional paternity leave and pay if their partner returns to work before the end of their maternity leave period.

Please call us if you have a query about maternity or paternity rights.

Maternity Leave


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