From bump to baby: your rights and entitlements at work

British Pounds | www.angeliquelee.co.uk

1. Decide when to tell your boss

You don’t have to tell your employer until the 15th week before the week your baby is due, but you won’t be able to take time off for antenatal appointments until you’ve told them about your pregnancy. So, if you don’t want to use up your annual leave to go for antenatal care, you might want to tell them from as early as the first trimester or the beginning of the second trimester since that’s when your first appointment usually takes place.

2. Paid time off for antenatal appointments

You’re legally entitled to paid time off for antenatal care, but as I’ve said above, you’d have to tell your employer about your pregnancy from quite early on. Still, it might be worth doing so, considering that the paid time off not only cover medical appointments; it includes antenatal or parenting classes and relaxation sessions as long as they’re recommended by your doctor or midwife. Dads-to-be don’t get this right, I’m afraid.

3. Your health and safety, and protection at work

Once your employer knows about your pregnancy, they have a legal requirement to protect your health and safety at work (if necessary, by offering suitable alternative work). If they can’t do that, they might have to give you time off on full pay, regardless of how long you’ve worked for them. You’re also protected against unfair treatment, discrimination and dismissal, and your employer can’t change your contract terms and conditions without your agreement.

4. Maternity leave

When you tell your employer about your pregnancy (and remember that it can’t be later than 15 weeks before the week your baby is due), you should also tell them when you’d like to start your maternity leave. Your employer will then have 28 days to respond. You’re entitled to 52 weeks (1 year) of maternity leave made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave, regardless of how long you’ve worked for your employer. You can usually start your leave up to the 11th week before the week your baby is due. You don’t have to take the whole 52 weeks if you don’t want to, but you must take at least 2 weeks’ leave (4 if you work in a factory) after your baby is born. If you want to change your return to work date, you must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice. Maternity leave doesn’t affect your other employment benefits (for example, pension contribution, private healthcare, etc) – you’ll get them as usual.

Read more about maternity leave on Gov.UK.

5. Statutory maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. You’ll get 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax for the first 6 weeks and £138.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. It usually starts when you go for your maternity leave. To qualify, you must: (i) earn on average at least £111 a week; (ii) give the correct notice (that is, you must tell your employer about your pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the week your baby is due); (iii) give proof you’re pregnant (get a letter or the MATB1 certificate from your doctor or midwife); and (iv) have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.

Read more about maternity pay on Gov.UK and use the maternity entitlement calculator to check your eligibility.

6. Maternity allowance

If you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay (for example, because you don’t meet one or more of the requirements above, or if you’re self-employed, or if you’ve recently stop working), don’t worry – you might be able to get maternity allowance for 39 weeks instead. To qualify, you must (i) be either employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week your baby is due; and (ii) earning at least £30 a week over any 13-week period. It doesn’t matter if you had different jobs or periods of unemployment during the 66-week period. All you need to do is send a completed MA1 claim form together with your pay slips, MATB1 certificate, and SMP1 form (a form from your employer which basically explains why you’re not qualified to claim statutory maternity pay from them) after you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks to Jobcentre Plus.

If you’re not employed or self-employed, but you take part in the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner, you could still get maternity allowance for 14 weeks.

Read more about maternity allowance on Gov.UK and use the maternity entitlement calculator to check your eligibility.

7. Paternity leave and pay

Dads-to-be (or a pregnant woman’s same-sex partner) have the right to 1 or 2 weeks paid ordinary paternity leave and up to 26 weeks’ paid additional paternity leave (but only if the mother returns to work). To qualify for the ordinary paternity leave, you must (i) have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth; (ii) be employed by your employer up to the date of birth; (iii) earn at least £111 a week; and (iv) give the correct notice (that is, you must tell your employer about the pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the week the baby is due).

It’s a bit different if you’re applying for an additional paternity leave or if you’re adopting a child. Read more about paternity leave and pay on Gov.UK.

8. What happens when you go back to work after your maternity leave?

You’re entitled to return to your original job, but if this is not possible, your employer may arrange for a suitable alternative job. If they can’t offer you a suitable alternative job, you may be entitled to redundancy pay.

You may also be entitled to request for a flexible working arrangement.

9. Useful websites you can (and probably should) refer to:

Maternity and paternity benefits and leave on the NHS’ website, and Pregnant employees’ rights on Gov.UK.