Maternity leave and pay

The right to maternity leave


All pregnant employees, ie those working under a contract of employment, are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave (SML) around the birth of their child. Employees automatically qualify for SML - it does not matter how long the employee has worked for you.

The 52-week SML period is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave (OML) followed immediately by 26 weeks of additional maternity leave (AML).

Shared parental leave

In addition, an eligible mother can end her maternity leave early, and with her partner or the child's father, opt for shared parental leave. Read more on shared parental leave and pay.

Compulsory maternity leave

An employee must take a minimum of two weeks' leave after the birth of her child - or four weeks if she works in a factory. You must not allow her to work during this time.

Multiple births

SML remains at 52 weeks regardless of the number of children resulting from a single pregnancy.

Stillbirth and miscarriage

If your employee gives birth to a stillborn baby, she is still entitled to maternity leave if the birth happens after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

If a miscarriage occurs before the end of the 24th week of pregnancy, the employee could take sick leave or you could allow them to take compassionate leave, annual leave, or unpaid leave instead.

When a baby dies

If the baby is born alive at any point in the pregnancy but then later dies, the employee is still entitled to SML.

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay

An employee may be eligible for Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay if they or their partner either has a child who has died under 18 years old or had a stillbirth after 24 weeks.

Enhanced maternity leave

You can also provide enhanced maternity leave arrangements to attract and retain employees.

For example, you could allow employees with more than a year's service to take more than 52 weeks' leave.

You can offer these arrangements either as a contractual right or on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, but use caution when exercising discretion to avoid claims of unfair treatment or discrimination.

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