Time Off Work Following the Birth of a Child: An Overview

As a woman taking time off work to have a child, you’re legally entitled to leave and pay, but you don’t automatically qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave (SML), Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and you must meet the qualifying requirements to be eligible.

In this blog we’ll outline the criteria for SML, SMP and SPL.

Statutory Maternity Leave

You are eligible for SML if…

  • You give your employer the correct amount of notice – which is at least 15 weeks prior to your due date (this week is referred to as the ‘qualifying’ week)
  • You are an employee as opposed to a worker – you’re usually classed as an employee if you’re working under an employment contract

If you qualify, you are entitled to 52 weeks of SML – though you can take less if you want to. If you plan to return to work early or want to return late, you need to give your employer a minimum of eight weeks’ notice.

It’s important that you know your employment rights do not change if you go on SML. This means you’re still eligible for pay rises and can still accrue holidays as if you were still at work.

Even if you don’t take SML, you must still take two weeks off following the birth of your baby. This is known as Compulsory Maternity Leave. If you work in a factory, you must take four weeks.

Statutory Maternity Pay

You are eligible for SMP if…

  • You give your employer enough notice – at least 15 weeks before your due date (like with SML, this is the ‘qualifying’ week)
  • You’ve continuously worked for your employer for a minimum of 26 weeks before the start of your ‘qualifying’ week
  • You provide your employer with official proof of your pregnancy within 21 days of your SMP start date (i.e. a letter from your doctor or midwife or a MATB1 Certificate)
  • You earn £112 or more per week – this can be on average

If you qualify, you are entitled to 39 weeks of SMP. For the first six of those 39 weeks, you will be paid 90% of your weekly income (before tax). For the rest of your leave period, you will currently be paid either £139.58 per week, or 90% of your gross weekly income if it is less than £139.58.

If you haven’t worked for your employer for long enough to receive SMP, you may qualify for Maternity Allowance, which is a benefit paid to you by the government.

Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay

To qualify for SPL, you or your partner must be eligible for SMP or leave or Maternity Allowance, and you must share responsibility for the child with:

  • Your husband, wife or civil partner
  • The child’s other parent
  • Your partner (if they live with you and the child)

You must also have been continuously employed by the same employer for a minimum of 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date (again, the ‘qualifying’ week). You also need to stay with the same employer while you take SPL. During the 66 weeks before the week the baby is due your partner must also have been working for at least 26 weeks of those weeks and have earned at least £390 in total in 13 of those 66 weeks.

If eligible, you can start SPL and take your leave in separate blocks, instead of all in one go like maternity leave, and also you can share the leave between you and your partner.

You may also be eligible for Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SSPP) if you’re an employee and either:

  • You’re eligible for SMP; or
  • You’re eligible for Statutory Paternity Pay and your partner is eligible for SMP or Maternity Allowance

SSPP is currently £139.58 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower of the two figures.

Legal Advice and Help for Pregnant Employees

At Slater Heelis we are passionate about protecting the employment rights of pregnant women and new mothers. If you’d like some advice, or are wondering whether or not your employer is treating you fairly, get in touch and we can help you.

The dedicated solicitors in our Employment team are greatly experienced and have provided many women with helpful, clear advice. Give us a call on 0161 969 3131, or put your name and number into the contact form below and we’ll get back to you quickly.