Statutory Maternity Leave

For employees, Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks. If you're entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave, you must give your employer written notice that you want to take it. You need to start your Statutory Maternity Leave by a certain date and agree this with your employer.

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 gives a personalised statement of the Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay you might get.

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 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
  • 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave

This gives 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave.

To qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave, you must be an employee. If you're an employee and 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're usually eligible for Statutory Maternity leave. Some surrogate parents might be eligible for adoption leave and paternity leave. 

These rights are only available if the parents are eligible to apply for a Parental Order and do this within six months of the child's birth.

You aren't entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave

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

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're 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 MAT B1 form. This is 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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