Statutory Maternity Leave: returning to work

You're entitled to 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave. You have employment rights and responsibilities when you return to work after Statutory Maternity Leave.

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). If your employer shows it's not reasonably practical to return to your original job (for example, because the job no longer exists) you don't have the same right. Your employer must offer you 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. But it's helpful to tell your employer.

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.

Shared Parental Leave and Pay

You and your partner could be entitled to shared rights to leave and pay during your baby's first year.

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

Flexible working

If you worked continuously for 26 weeks, you are entitled to ask for 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.


You should write and tell your employer you want to breastfeed when you return to work. You should do this before you return so that your employer has time to plan.

Your employer must do 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.

Employers can provide a private, healthy and safe environment for nursing mothers to express and store milk.  But the law doesn't tell employers to do this.

Taking parental 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 return to the same job unless this is not reasonably practical. Your employer must offer you alternative, suitable work with the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been absent.

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

More useful links

Share this page


Your comments are anonymous and can’t be responded to - if you would like a reply, use the feedback form.

Your comments
Plain text only, 750 characters maximum. Don't include personal or financial information.