If you are expecting a baby or are about to become a father, you may be entitled to maternity or paternity leave. This article will explain what maternity and paternity leave and payments employees in the UK are entitled to, and who is eligible to receive it.
Maternity leave in the UK
Within the UK, female employees are entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave regardless of the job they do or the company they work for. Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks, divided up into Ordinary Maternity Leave – the first 26 weeks of leave – and Additional Maternity Leave, which is the second 26 weeks of leave.
Some companies also offer their own maternity packages that may be more generous or flexible than Statutory Maternity Leave, but you cannot be offered less than Statutory Maternity Leave if you are eligible for it. Statutory Maternity Leave is available to all pregnant employees, no matter how long they have been with the company or how many hours they work each week.
During your maternity leave, you are entitled to maternity pay for up to 39 weeks. Maternity pay is calculated as 90% of your average pre-tax weekly earnings for the first six weeks of leave, followed by 90% of your average pre-tax weekly earnings, or £145.18 (whichever is the lesser amount) for the subsequent 33 weeks.
Do I have to take the full 52 weeks of leave?
You don’t have to take the full 52 weeks of maternity leave if you don’t want to. However, there is a limit to how little maternity leave you can take, which consists of at least two weeks of leave after the birth of your baby, extending to four weeks for factory workers.
When can I begin my maternity leave?
In terms of when your maternity leave begins, generally the earliest that you can take leave is 11 weeks prior to the week that you expect to give birth. If your baby is born early and you are still scheduled to work at this time, your leave will begin the day after the baby’s birth.
Maternity leave also begins early if you need to take time off due to an illness or health condition relating to your pregnancy during the four-week period leading up to your due date.
Paternity leave in the UK
If you are about to become a father, you may be entitled to paternity leave. Paternity leave in the UK is available to fathers who have a formal contract of employment with their employer, and who have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby’s due date.
If you are eligible for paternity leave, you need to advise your employer in writing by the 26th week of the pregnancy of your intention to take it.
How much paternity leave can I take?
Paternity leave consists of one or two weeks of leave, and this time must be taken in one block. Paternity leave cannot begin until the baby is born and must be completed within 56 days of the baby’s birth.
Will I get paid for paternity leave?
You’re entitled to paternity pay for paternity leave, and this is calculated as 90% of your average pre-tax weekly earnings or £145.18, whichever is lower. Again, some companies have more generous paternity leave and pay arrangements in place for their employees, but you cannot be offered less than the statutory amount of time or pay for your paternity leave.
What to do if your employer won’t honour your right to maternity or paternity leave
If your employer won’t allow you to take the leave that you are entitled to or if they withhold payments that you are owed during this time, we can help.
Borg Knight are UK employment law specialists, and we can advise you on your rights and how to exercise them to ensure that you get the leave and pay that you are owed. Contact us now if you need help or advocacy with maternity leave or paternity leave in the UK.