Guide

Maternity leave and pay

Changing a return date after maternity leave

Unless the employee has notified you otherwise, the date she returns to work will normally be the first working day 52 weeks after her statutory maternity leave (SML) began.

Returning to work early from maternity leave

If an employee wishes to return to work early, she must give you notice at least eight weeks before her new return date. You can accept less or no notice at your discretion.

For example, if an employee was due to return to work after 52 weeks' SML on 1 August, but then decided to return to work after 39 weeks of leave on 9 May, she would need to give you eight weeks' notice of the new date, ie by 14 March.

If you didn't provide appropriate notification of when her leave should end, the employee does not have to give you eight weeks' notice - see notification and confirmation of maternity leave.

If the employee attempts to return to work earlier than planned without giving you notice, you can postpone her return by up to eight weeks. However, you may not postpone her return to a date later than the end of her 52-week SML period.

If the employee still comes to work during the period of postponement, you do not have to pay her.

Returning to work after the planned date

If an employee wishes to return to work after the planned return date, she should give you notice of her new date of return at least eight weeks before the original planned return date.

For example, if an employee originally notified you that she planned to return to work at the end of her ordinary maternity leave (ie after 26 weeks) on 1 October but - while on leave - decides that she wishes to take her full entitlement of 52 weeks, she must notify you of this eight weeks before 1 October, ie by 6 August.

If you didn't provide appropriate notification of when her leave should end, the employee does not have to give you eight weeks' notice - see notification and confirmation of maternity leave.

Not returning to work from maternity leave

An employee who does not wish to return to work at all after her SML must give you notice of this. This will be the same notice as she would give for resignation in any other circumstances as required by her contract of employment.

However, as long as she specifies the date on which she wishes to terminate the contract (eg the date she was due back at work after SML), her SML continues.

In addition, if she terminates her contract before the end of the statutory maternity pay (SMP) period, you must continue to pay her SMP for the full 39 week SMP pay period, provided she has not started work for an employer who did not employ her in the 15th week before her expected week of childbirth.

Employees who don't return are not required to pay back any SMP they have received. See maternity pay.