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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 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 could have the right to up to 26 weeks' Additional Paternity Leave. This is in addition to the two weeks' Ordinary Paternity Leave they could be entitled to.

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

You must have returned to work before the father can take Additional Paternity Leave. If the father decides to take Additional Paternity Leave you will be asked for a signed declaration stating:

  • your name, address (including postcode) and National Insurance number
  • you are entitled to either Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance (or Statutory Maternity or Adoption Leave if they are applying for unpaid Additional Paternity Leave only)
  • you have given notice of your intention to return to work and the date you intend to return to work
  • the start date of your Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance period (if they are applying for Additional Statutory Paternity Pay)
  • they are the only person taking Additional Paternity Leave or pay in respect of the child
  • you consent to the employer processing the information given in the declaration
  • they are the father of the child or your spouse, partner or civil partner (including same-sex relationships)

Flexible working

As the parent of a child under seventeen, or a disabled child under eighteen, 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 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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