Statutory Maternity Leave

If you are entitled to take Statutory Maternity Leave, there are steps you need to follow to tell your employer you want to take it. There are rules about starting your Statutory Maternity Leave and how much maternity leave you must take.

Personalised help on Statutory Maternity Leave entitlements

You can get personalised help on what you may qualify for by using the online maternity rights tool. The tool will give a personalised statement of the Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay that you may qualify for and an interactive calendar.

Company maternity leave and pay schemes

Your employer may have a maternity leave scheme which could be more generous than the statutory scheme. Check your employment contract or staff handbook for details or ask your employer. Your employer can't offer you less than your legal rights.

Entitlement to Statutory Maternity Leave

As an employee you have the right to 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave. This known as Statutory Maternity Leave.

To qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave you must be an employee. If you are an employee and you give your employer the right notice, you can take Statutory Maternity Leave no matter:

  • how long you have been with your employer
  • how many hours you work
  • how much you are paid

Surrogate parents

If you and your husband, wife or partner are having a child through surrogacy, you will not normally be eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave. Some surrogate parents are eligible for adoption leave.

These rights are only available if these parents apply for a parental order because of the child within six months of the birth and they expect the order to be granted.

Not qualifying for Statutory Maternity Leave

If you don't qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave, speak to your employer. They may offer enhanced maternity rights that you are entitled to.

If you're a worker, your employer may allow you to take unpaid leave. You could take paid holiday, unpaid leave or parental leave. You may still be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay. 

Telling your employer you will be taking Statutory Maternity Leave

You must tell your employer you want to take Statutory Maternity Leave at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby is due. If this is not possible (for example because you didn't know you were pregnant), tell them as soon as possible.

You need to say:

  • you are pregnant
  • when the baby is due
  • when you want to start your maternity leave (you can change the date later, if you give at least 28 days' notice)

Your employer might ask for notice in writing. They may also ask for a copy of form MAT B1, the maternity certificate, which says when the baby's due.

Maternity certificate

Your doctor or midwife will give you a copy of the MAT B1 form after you have been pregnant for 21 weeks. They cannot give this to you any earlier.

After informing your employer that you want to take Statutory Maternity Leave, they should write to you within 28 days. They should confirm your Statutory Maternity Leave and give you the date your Statutory Maternity Leave will end.

Starting your Statutory Maternity Leave

You can start your Statutory Maternity Leave any time from 11 weeks before the beginning of the week when your baby's due.

Leave will also start:

  • the day after the birth of the baby if the baby is early
  • automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy related illness in the four weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due

Compulsory maternity leave

You don't have to take all your Statutory Maternity Leave. But you must take two weeks (or four weeks if you work in a factory) of 'compulsory' maternity leave after your baby is born.

If your baby is stillborn

You can take your Statutory Maternity Leave if your child is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy or born alive at any point of the pregnancy.

Shared Parental Leave and Pay

When your baby is born and during their first year, you and your partner might be entitled to shared rights to leave and pay.

To read  more about Shared Parental Leave and Pay, go to:

Having problems taking maternity leave

If you have a problem taking your Statutory Maternity Leave, talk to your employer. If this doesn't work, you may need to complain using your employer’s grievance procedure.

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