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. Find out about the rules for starting your Statutory Maternity Leave and how much maternity leave you must take.

Personalised help on your 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 produce a personalised statement of the Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay that you may qualify for, along with an interactive calendar to help you plan.  

(This link will redirect you to an interactive tool on the website. This tool may be used by people in Northern Ireland. However, please use caution as other information on GOV.UK may not be applicable to Northern Ireland).

Company maternity leave and pay schemes

Your employer may have their own 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 making one year in total. This equals a total of 52 weeks which is 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 will however become eligible for adoption leave.

These rights are only available if these parents do 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 are a worker, your employer may allow you to take unpaid leave. Alternatively, you could consider taking paid holiday, unpaid leave or parental leave. You may still be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay. Click on the link below for more information.

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 realise 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. 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 do not have to take all of your Statutory Maternity Leave. However, you must take two weeks (or four weeks if you work in a factory) of 'compulsory' maternity leave after your baby is born.

If you lose your baby

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

Additional Paternity Leave

If your baby was due on, or before, 4 April 2015, the father of your child or your partner could have the right to up to 26 weeks' Additional Paternity Leave. 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.

What to do if you have problems

If you have a problem taking your 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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