What are My Maternity Rights at Work?

If you’re pregnant and due to go off on maternity leave shortly, it’s important that you know what your maternity rights are at work in England and Wales.

You’ll need to know about your maternity leave, maternity pay and other issues that could affect you once you’ve had your baby.

Even though you’ll be thinking about your baby, you do need to think about what’s happening at work too, so we explain your maternity rights at work below.

If you think your employer is treating you unfairly because you’re pregnant or on maternity leave, or even if you’ve only advised your employer you intend taking maternity leave, speak to one of our specialist Employment Solicitors for legal advice.

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My Maternity Rights at Work

If you’re an employee on maternity leave, you have legal rights in the workplace. They are:

  • Maternity leave
  • Maternity pay
  • Protection from discrimination or unfair treatment because you’re on maternity leave or intend taking maternity leave

Your employer can’t change the terms of your contract without your agreement during your maternity leave. If they do, they could be in breach of your employment contract as well as discriminatory conduct and you should get legal advice from an Employment Lawyer.

You also have the right to accrue annual leave whilst on maternity leave and receive any pay rises attached to your job that you would have received if you were not on maternity leave. 

Additional Maternity Rights at Work

Your employer will also have to consider other rights and responsibilities they have to you when you’re on maternity leave. You have the right to:

  • Return to the same job role if you have only taken ‘ordinary maternity leave’ of up to 26 weeks
  • Protection from dismissal, disadvantage or discrimination because you’re on maternity leave
  • Ask for flexible hours when you return to work – your employer doesn’t have to agree though
  • One year of statutory maternity leave, regardless of your length of service.

Maternity Pay

Details of your maternity pay will be outlined in your terms and conditions of your employment of employment. You’ll either be paid statutory maternity pay or your employer will enhance your maternity pay package so it’s worth checking. You could also check your maternity policy to find out. Remember that the right to maternity leave is separate to the right to receive maternity pay. For example, if you take additional maternity leave beyond the period covered by statutory maternity pay (see below), that additional period of leave might be unpaid unless your employer has an enhanced maternity pay package.

Statutory Maternity Pay

You are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay for 39 weeks of maternity leave. For the first six weeks of your maternity leave, you’ll earn 90% of your average weekly pay. For rest of your maternity leave you’ll be paid the £148.68 or 90% of your weekly earnings, whichever is less. These figures are correct as of April 2019.

It’s important to know that your maternity leave is split into two parts. Ordinary maternity leave runs for the first 26 weeks. After that, the last 26 weeks is called additional maternity leave. You don’t have to take the whole 52 weeks off though.

You can start your maternity leave 11 weeks before the expected week of your child’s birth. You must take at least 2 weeks after the birth, or 4 weeks if you are classed as a factory worker.

To be eligible for statutory maternity pay, you must give your employer the correct notice. You must tell your employer at least 15 weeks before your due date when your baby is due and when you want to start your leave.

You should also tell them when your statutory maternity pay is to start. You should put this in writing and give your employer at least 28 days’ notice.

They will write to you to tell you when your maternity leave and your maternity pay will start and finish and this must happen within 28 days.

Discrimination Rights during Maternity Leave

Pregnancy and maternity is one of the nine Protected Characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, so if you’re treated unfairly because you’ve had a baby, or for a reason connected to maternity leave, you may be able to pursue a claim for Maternity Discrimination at Work.

If you think your employer has treated you differently since you’ve been on maternity leave, you could have a claim for discrimination. You can bring a claim against your employer whilst you’re still employed, so you wouldn’t need to leave your job. Speak to an expert Employment Solicitor for specialist legal advice. 

Keeping in Touch Days

You are entitled to work for up to 10 days during your maternity leave, helping you to stay in touch with your workplace. These are called ‘Keeping in Touch’ days. These are optional and you’ll need to agree these with your employer. Any maternity pay isn’t affected by these Keeping in Touch days, but you should agree payment with your employer before you take them.

With our friendly, down-to-earth approach, we can offer detailed legal advice on your maternity rights at work and help if you’re experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment.

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