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Employment Law > Pregnancy, Maternity Leave and Employment Rights

Pregnancy, Maternity Leave and Employment Rights

If you’re pregnant and at work, as an employee you have certain rights such as being able to take time off. You will also be protected against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal.

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Pregnant employees have certain legal rights that their employers must respect. Similarly, if your partner is having a baby, or you are adopting then there you will also be able to take time off work for paternity leave or statutory adoption leave.

Whilst you are on maternity leave, your employment rights are protected by law. These include the rights not to be subject to unfair treatment, discrimination or to dismissal.

Most employers will be aware of and understand their obligations to pregnant employees and also to employees wishing to take paternity leave or statutory adoption leave.

However, if you feel your employer is trying to deprive you of your entitlement to paid leave, or you are being unfairly discriminated against because you are pregnant or because you have asked to take leave, then our employment solicitors may be able to help.

We’ve summarised the current situation regarding maternity leave and pay below, but if you’d like further advice from an expert Employment Law Solicitor, you can call our team today on 0151 239 1000.

What is Maternity Leave?

If you’re having a baby, then in most situations, you are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care and you are able to take up to 52 weeks’ off work as statutory maternity leave.

When you choose to take your maternity leave, and how much of this leave you take is largely up to you – it can begin up to 11 weeks before the week you are due to give birth. If you have just given birth, then you must take a minimum of two weeks leave before they return to work, or 4 weeks if you work in a physically demanding job.

During your maternity leave, your employment rights will be protected (apart from your salary, as you will receive statutory maternity pay during your leave). After your maternity leave has ended, you will be entitled to return to the same job, with the same terms and conditions in your contract.

What is Statutory Maternity Pay and how is it calculated?

Statutory maternity pay (often referred to as SMP), is the money you receive from your employer in place of your salary whilst you are off on maternity leave. How much SMP you receive depends on the length of your maternity leave, but it will usually be 90% of your average weekly pay for the first six weeks of your leave.

After the initial six weeks of maternity leave, your SMP will be calculated as either 90% of your average weekly pay, or £138.18, whichever amount is lower. You are entitled to this reduced rate for the next 33 weeks of your maternity leave.

Beyond the 39 weeks of paid maternity leave, you can take a further 13 weeks unpaid leave which makes up your 52 week entitlement. You should be aware that the figures mentioned above are the statutory minimums and it may be the case that your employer operates a more generous maternity pay scheme than the minimum required by law.

How do I qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay?

It is important to be aware that whilst most pregnant women will be eligible to receive statutory maternity pay from their employer, you will not automatically qualify unless you can satisfy the following conditions:

  • You must have worked continuously for 26 weeks up to and including the 15th week before the baby’s due date.

  • You must have average earnings of at least £111 a week from your job.

  • You must have supplied the necessary paperwork confirming your pregnancy to your employer, such as a doctor or a midwife’s letter or the MATB1 certificate.

What happens if I don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay?

If you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay then you might still be eligible for the maternity allowance, which is paid to new mothers through the Jobcentre Plus. You could receive maternity allowance for up to 39 weeks and you can begin claiming from the 26th week of your pregnancy – payments will start from 11 weeks before your due date.

How much maternity allowance you get will depend on the type of work you were doing before you began claiming, but it could be as much as 90% of your average weekly earnings, or £138.18 (whichever of these two figures is the lower amount) for up to 39 weeks.

You should be aware though that as maternity allowance is considered a benefit, unlike statutory maternity pay, it might affect any other benefits you receive, such as housing benefit and income support.


What are my employment rights whilst pregnant or on maternity leave?

Whilst you are pregnant or on maternity leave your employment rights are protected by law. These rights include protection against unfair treatment, discrimination or dismissal.

Whilst most employers will be keen to support their staff throughout their pregnancy and during their maternity leave, others will try to get round the statutory protections. Some common examples of discrimination faced by pregnant employees or by new mothers on maternity leave include:

  • Employers who under-pay statutory maternity pay or who fail to pay at all during an employee’s maternity leave.

  • Situations where an employer attempts to change the terms and conditions in the contract of a pregnant employee, or an employee who is on maternity leave.

  • Employers who seek to get a pregnant employee to leave their employment before they are required to begin paying statutory maternity pay or who seek to make it difficult for a new mother to return to work after maternity leave.

  • Pregnant employees who are passed over for promotion or pay rises, on account of their pregnancy.

What can I do about employment issues regarding my pregnancy?

If you feel you are being discriminated against by your employer due to your pregnancy, or because you have taken maternity leave, then you should speak to one of the Employment Law Solicitors here at Canter Levin & Berg Solicitors to find out how we could help you.

Our solicitors will be able to provide you with advice, setting out the options you have available to you to raise the issue of discrimination with your employer and how you can go about resolving the issue. We can also help if you decide to take your employer to an Employment Tribunal or if you choose to use mediation or another form of dispute resolution.

For more information on the whole range of legal services we can offer to help when it comes to dealing with discrimination in the workplace, call our team now on 0151 239 1000 or submit your enquiry here on our website and one of our Employment Solicitors will call you back.