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Statutory Maternity Leave: returning to work

You have employment rights and responsibilities when you return to work after Statutory Maternity Leave. Find out what these are and what to do if you have any problems or you are denied your rights.

Returning to work after Statutory Maternity Leave

When returning to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first 26 weeks of your Statutory Maternity Leave), you have a right to the same job and the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been away.

This also applies when you come back after Additional Maternity Leave (the last 26 weeks of your Statutory Maternity Leave). However, if your employer shows it is not reasonably practical to return to your original job (for example, because the job no longer exists) you do not have the same right. In that case, you must be offered alternative work with the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been away.

Giving notice of your return to work

Your employer will assume that you will take all 52 weeks of your Statutory Maternity Leave. If you take the full 52 weeks, you don’t need to give notice that you are coming back. However, it can be a good idea to do so.

If you wish to return earlier, for example, when your Statutory Maternity Pay ends, you must give at least eight weeks’ notice. If you don't, your employer can insist that you don’t return until the eight weeks have passed. You must tell your employer that you:

  • are returning to work early
  • want to change the date of your return

If you decide not to return to work at all, you must give your employer notice in the normal way.

Illness at the end of your Statutory Maternity Leave

If you can’t return to work at the end of your Statutory Maternity Leave because of illness tell your employer in the normal way.

Additional Paternity Leave

The father of your child or your partner could have the right to up to 26 weeks' Additional Paternity Leave if your child was due before, or on, 4 April 2015. This is in addition to the two weeks' Statutory Paternity Leave they could be entitled to.

Additional Paternity Leave can be taken 20 weeks after the child is born. It must finish before the child's first birthday.

Shared Parental Leave and Pay

If your baby was due on or after 5 April 2015, you and your partner could be able to enjoy shared rights to leave and pay.

This can give you more flexibility and choice when considering your work and caring commitments during your child’s first year. More information is available on the Shared Parental Leave and Pay page.

Flexible working

If you have been working continuously for 26 weeks, you are entitled to request a flexible working pattern. This can help you balance caring for your child and work. Your employer must consider your request and respond to you in writing.

Breastfeeding

You should let your employer know in writing if you are planning to breastfeed when you return to work. Ideally you should do this before you return so that your employer has time to plan.

Your employer must carry out a risk assessment to identify risks to you as a breastfeeding mother or to your baby. If there are risks they must do all that is reasonable to remove the risks or make alternative arrangements for you. Your employer must also provide suitable rest facilities.

Although there is no legal requirement, employers are encouraged to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store milk.

Taking parental leave after Statutory Maternity Leave

If you need more time off to look after your child you may be able to take parental leave. You can take up to four weeks' parental leave at the end of your Statutory Maternity Leave without affecting your right to return.

If you take more than four weeks you will be able to return to the same job unless this is not reasonably practical. In this case you must be offered alternative work that is suitable to you and with the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been absent.

Parental leave doesn’t have to follow straight after Statutory Maternity Leave. You can take parental leave at a later time after you have returned to work.

What to do if you have problems

If you have a problem when you return to work after Statutory Maternity Leave, talk to your employer first of all - it may be a simple misunderstanding. If this doesn't work, you may need to make a complaint using your employer’s grievance procedure.

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