maternity leave

How long is maternity leave? 


In the UK, statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks. This is broken down into 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. Although this varies from person to person depending on various factors. However, a woman must take at least 2 weeks leave after giving birth, or at least 4 weeks if they work in a factory. 


When can I take maternity leave? 


Normally, women tend to work for as long as they can before starting their maternity leave. But the earliest maternity leave can start is around 11 weeks before the due date. However, if the baby is born prematurely, your maternity leave will begin the day after the birth. Maternity leave can begin if the pregnant woman is off work for a pregnancy-related illness within the 4 weeks before the due date. 


When can I return to work?


Commonly an agreed return to work date will be discussed before leaving before maternity leave. However, due to various circumstances, some women may wish to change this date, if so, the employer must be given 8 weeks’ notice to change this. 


Will my pay be the same as before maternity leave? 


According to Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks, but Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks, 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) are paid. For the next 33 weeks, you will receive £151.97, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). 

However, with various companies, this pay can differ. As some businesses can ‘top up’ maternity pay, or even offer full pay whilst on maternity leave. But this decision is down to the individual company, and what they want to offer. 

Your payments whilst on Statutory Maternity Pay are paid just like your normal wages, with tax and NI deducted. 

Your employment rights are protected during statutory maternity leave, meaning you are entitled to pay rises, build holidays, and return to work. 


How long is paternity leave? 


Paternity leave is when a partner takes time off because their partner is having a baby, having a baby through surrogacy, or adopting. Based on the circumstances and the company, a person could be entitled to 1 or 2 weeks paid paternity leave, paternity pay, or shared parental leave and pay. Paternity pay and leave can differ between companies. 

During the pregnancy or surrogate pregnancy, you are also able to have time off to attend 2 antenatal appointments. Alternatively, you can attend 2 adoption appointments, once matched with a child. 

Like with maternity leave, your employment rights are protected when you are on paternity leave. Meaning you can return to work, build up holidays and receive pay rises. 


Returning to work 


Keeping in touch days are designed to help employees stay up to date with what’s going on at work. Employees can work up to 10 days during their maternity or adoption leave but this must be agreed upon by both the employer and employee. These days can provide regular communication with work, meaning that the return to work process is much easier. 


Employees do have the right to return to work, if any of the below apply: 

  • A person takes only 26 weeks of maternity or adoption leave 
  • A person takes only 26 weeks of shared parental leave (split between both parents)
  • A person takes only paternity leave 
  • A person takes 4 weeks or less of unpaid parental leave 
  • A person takes parental bereavement leave 


However, if the employee takes more leave, they have the right to return to their job, or alternatively a similar job, which has the same or better terms and conditions. 


Is a return to work assessment required? 


A return to work assessment for women returning to work after childbirth can be beneficial. Some may feel that they should return to work before they are physically or emotionally ready. These assessments are not only important in ensuring the health and safety of the person returning to work, but also great at developing & holding onto the best talent. 

Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that employers have a legal duty to assess the health and safety that all of their employees are exposed to at work. But, when an employee provides written notification that she is pregnant, has given birth within the last 6 months, or is breastfeeding, the employer should immediately take into account any risks that have been identified in their workplace risk assessment. 


Contact Us 

For further information regarding return to work assessments and support for employees, please get in touch. Call us on 01260 277797 or email us via

Want to know more about the Occupational Health services we provide at Acorn, and how they could benefit your business and your employees? Please get in touch.