Your Maternity Employment Rights Explained
Finding out that you are pregnant is a very exciting time in your life but it can also be stressful if you are unsure how it will affect your job. If you are an employee then you have certain rights under law and are entitled to both maternity leave and maternity pay. What you are entitled to will depend on your circumstances so it is important to find out exactly what situation you are in.
Statutory Maternity PayIf you have been working for your employer for at least 26 weeks before the 15th week of your pregnancy and have been earning at least £90 a week, then you are entitled to statutory maternity pay. This means that you will receive 90% of your pay for the first six weeks and then for the rest of the time – up to 33 weeks – you will get £117.18 or 90% of your salary, whichever is less. You must tell your employer at least 28 days before you want it to start and then it will be paid at the same time as your wages would be.
Maternity LeaveIf you are an employee then you have the right to statutory maternity leave of up to 52 weeks, though statutory maternity pay only lasts 39 weeks. You must give your employer good notice, preferably 15 weeks. You must tell them you’re pregnant, when the baby’s due and when you want to start your maternity leave. You can start your leave anytime in the 11 weeks before the baby is due. You can decide how long you take off but you must take at least two weeks, or four if you work in a factory.
Maternity AllowanceIf you are not an employee and therefore don’t qualify for maternity pay and leave, you may still be able to claim maternity allowance. If you are self-employed and pay class 2 national insurance, have a small earnings exemption certificate or are not employed but have been close to your pregnancy then you can probably claim. The standard rate is the same as statutory maternity pay and is £117.18 for up to 39 weeks.
Employer’s Own RulesYour employer has to give you statutory maternity pay and maternity leave under law. However, some companies run more generous schemes and it is important to check your contract and your company’s policies. If they refuse to pay then it will be counted as sex discrimination and unlawful deduction from you wages and you can seek help to get what you are entitled to.
Having a baby can be expensive so it is important that you make sure that you get the maternity pay that you are entitled to. It can also take its toll on your body so make sure you get enough rest by taking advantage of the maternity leave that you can get. It is your choice how long you take off, up to a maximum of a year, although you won’t receive statutory maternity pay for all of that. Check whether your employer has a more generous scheme but also be aware that the statutory allowances are the minimum they can give you.