Maternity leave and pay

When maternity leave can begin


An employee can choose to begin her statutory maternity leave (SML) any time from 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth (EWC) up until the birth itself.

For the rules on notification for SML, see notification and confirmation of maternity leave.

Pregnancy-related absence

An employee can choose when to start her maternity leave. The exception is if she is absent from work for a pregnancy-related reason and the absence is after the beginning of the fourth week before the EWC - but before the date she notified you that she intended to start her leave. In this case, you can start the maternity leave as soon as she is absent.

In these circumstances, her SML will begin the day after the first day of her pregnancy-related absence.

Pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care - see employees' right to paid time off for antenatal care.

Childbirth before maternity leave has begun

SML also begins on the day after the day of childbirth if the birth occurs before:

  • the notified SML start date
  • the employee has notified you of any SML start date

This applies even if the birth takes place before the start of the 11th week before the EWC. In these circumstances, the employee should give you notice - in writing if you request it - of:

  • the date of the birth if it has already taken place
  • the original expected date of birth

The employee can provide you with evidence of the actual and expected dates of birth on the maternity certificate (MATB1) provided by her doctor or midwife.

Changing the start date of SML

After giving you her notification, the employee can change her intended start date as long as she notifies you of the new start date. She must do this by whichever is the earlier of:

  • 28 days before the date she originally intended to start her leave
  • 28 days before the new date she wants to start her leave

However, if it is not reasonably practicable for her to give you this much notice, she does not have to. In these circumstances, she should give you as much notice as possible. You may request this notification in writing.