As an employee if you’re pregnant or you have just given birth to your child then you are entitled to take a period of maternity leave from work. How long this period of maternity leave is and whether you can be paid for it depends on a number of factors, such as the length of time that you’ve been working for your employer and how much time you want to take off work. This article will take a look at when women qualify to take maternity leave and the nature of the right to take maternity leave. This will entail an examination of:
- Who qualifies to take maternity leave?
- What types of maternity leave are there?
Who qualifies to take maternity leave?
Only female employees qualify to take maternity leave. This means that if you are self-employed you do not qualify to take maternity leave. If you are an employee then you qualify to take maternity leave from day 1 of your employment. However, women only qualify to take statutory maternity pay if they have had more than 26 weeks’ employment with their employer before the date of the estimated week of childbirth.
What types of maternity leave are there?
There are three main types of maternity leave:
- Compulsory Maternity Leave
- Ordinary Maternity Leave
- Additional Maternity Leave
Compulsory Maternity Leave
Female employees are compelled to take two weeks’ leave after the date of childbirth and must be given reasonable time in addition to this period to care for their newborn child. The female employee must give reasonable notice to her employer that she is taking compulsory maternity leave and give her expected return date. However, if there is a pregnancy-related absence up to four weeks prior to the estimated week of childbirth (for example if the female employee has to attend hospital because of a pregnancy-related sickness or because of the birth itself) then the right to take compulsory maternity leave is automatically triggered.
Ordinary Maternity Leave
Female employees are entitled to take 26 weeks’ maternity leave. They are entitled to the benefit of all the terms and conditions that they would have enjoyed had they not been absent from work except for pay – they are not entitled to their full pay but to be paid the relevant amount of statutory maternity pay. They are entitled to take up to 39 weeks’ worth of statutory maternity pay during their childbirth-related absence. This obviously covers the whole period of ordinary maternity leave (should they wish to take it) but would not cover them for the entire period of additional maternity leave, should they choose to take additional maternity leave.
To take ordinary maternity leave the female employee must inform her employer of her intention to take maternity leave. If the estimated week of childbirth is equal to or more than 4 weeks away then the date of the start of maternity leave is the date the female employee specifies it will start on. If the estimated week of childbirth is less than 4 weeks away then the period of ordinary maternity leave starts on the second day that the female employee is absent from work partly or wholly because of her pregnancy. She should then inform her employer that she is taking maternity leave as soon as reasonably practicable. If the female employee chooses to take her period of ordinary maternity leave after the date of childbirth then the period of maternity leave starts on the day after childbirth occurs. She should then inform her employer that she is taking maternity leave as soon as reasonably practicable after this date.
Additional Maternity Leave
A female employee is entitled to take an additional period of maternity leave period of up to 26 weeks after her period of ordinary maternity leave has expired. She qualifies for up to 13 weeks’ statutory maternity pay during this period if she has drawn on her statutory maternity pay since day 1 of the ordinary maternity leave period. The rest of the additional maternity leave period will be unpaid.
Redmans are London employment lawyers who offer employment law advice, compromise agreement advice and are specialist unfair dismissal solicitors.