Employees should tell you the following information no later than the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC):
- The fact that she is pregnant.
- The expected date of the baby's birth.
- The intended start date of her maternity leave - this cannot be earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the EWC. The expected date of birth is given on the MATB1 form that the employee receives from her registered doctor or midwife to confirm that she is pregnant. An employee can change the start date of her leave - see when maternity leave can begin.
The EWC is the week in which the expected date of the baby's birth falls - starting with the preceding Sunday and ending the following Saturday. If the baby is born on a Sunday, that date is the first day in the EWC. The qualifying week is referred to as the 15th week before the EWC.
You may request notification of statutory maternity leave (SML) in writing.
SML entitlement if the 15 week deadline is missed
A woman who realises she is pregnant later than 15 weeks before the EWC week is still entitled to SML. In this event, the employee is expected to tell you the information above as soon as possible after the 15 week deadline.
SML notification and claiming statutory maternity pay (SMP)
The start date for SMP is normally the same as the start date for SML. Therefore, many employees will find it convenient to notify you of the start date of their SMP at the same time as they notify you of the start date of their SML.
If the employee plans to take SML, she only needs to provide you with a MATB1 form so you can work out whether she qualifies for SMP. If she does not qualify, you must return the MATB1 form to her because she will need it to claim Maternity Allowance.
See maternity pay.
Failure to give the required notification
If an employee doesn't give you the required notification, you can postpone the date she has chosen to start her SML.
You do not have to accept shorter notice but you may have to make an exception where it was not reasonably practicable for the employee to give you notice any earlier.
For example, the employee may not be able to notify you properly if her baby is born much earlier than expected, eg well before the qualifying week. In these circumstances, she still qualifies for 52 weeks' SML. See when maternity leave can begin.
Encouraging early notification
It benefits both you and the employee if she notifies you well in advance of the 15th week before the EWC as you:
- know she is entitled to paid time off for antenatal care - see pregnancy at work
- know that particular health and safety rules apply - see pregnancy at work
- can start making arrangements to cover the period while the employee is away
Confirming the end date of SML
After receiving her notification, you must in turn notify the employee of the date on which her SML will end. This will normally be 52 weeks from the intended start of her SML.
You must give the employee this information within 28 days of her notification, unless the employee has since changed the date her leave will start. In that case, you must notify her of the end date within 28 days of the start of her leave.
If you fail to give the employee proper notification and she wants to change her return date, she may not be obliged to comply with the eight week notice requirement - see changing a return date.