Maternity Leave – Rights for Employees

By law, all pregnant employees are entitled to ordinary maternity leave of 26 weeks. Employees who worked for their employer continuously for at least 12 months are also entitled to an additional maternity leave. Employees may have additional leave rights under their contracts. Employees have the right to return to work at the end of their maternity leave. If refused, or otherwise treated unfavourably, they may also have additional claims for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination.

Prescribed procedure

To take maternity leave, you must follow a prescribed procedure. You will have to inform your employer of your pregnancy, the expected week of birth, the date on which you would like to start your maternity leave and, if you are absent from work for a pregnancy-related reason, the reason for your absence.

You cannot start your maternity leave before the beginning of the eleventh week before the expected week of birth, unless you gave birth earlier. You may start your leave before the notified date if you are absent from work for a pregnancy-related reason.

Maternity leave periods

By law, there are two maternity leave periods:

Ordinary maternity leave. This lasts for 26 weeks. You have the right to return to your old job at the end of your leave on terms and conditions no less favourable than would have applied if you had not been absent on leave, provided you give your employer at least 28 days’ notice. During your leave, you are entitled to your contractual benefits, except for remuneration. You are likely to be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).

Additional maternity leave. This is available if you have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks at the beginning of the 14th week before the expected week of birth. It starts at the end of the ordinary maternity leave and can last for up to an additional 26 weeks. Your contract of employment continues during the leave period and some contractual benefits and obligations remain in force. You have to give your employer at least 28 days’ notice if you want to return to work. You have the right to return to your old job or to similar job on no less favourable terms.

If you also have a right to take maternity leave under your contract, you may take advantage of only the more favourable of your rights.


If your employer breaches any of your maternity rights, or otherwise treats you unfairly because you are pregnant, you are likely to have a sex discrimination claim. In addition, if you are not allowed to return to work at the end of your maternity leave, you will be treated as having been dismissed and may have a claim for automatic unfair dismissal. If you are made redundant whilst on leave, you may also have a claim for redundancy payment.

For unfair dismissal and sex discrimination, the most common remedy is compensation. Compensation for sex discrimination has no upper cap but will be limited to an amount which will put you, as far as possible, in the position you would have been in had you not been discriminated against.

Compensation for unfair dismissal is divided into a basic award and a compensatory award. The compensatory award depends on your actual losses and is capped. You have to take reasonable steps to minimise your losses, for example, to look for another job.

If your employer breached the terms of a contractual leave policy, you may also have claim for breach of contract.


You should make your complaints at the employment tribunal which is local to where you work (or worked). Sex discrimination, unfair dismissal and breach of contract claims must normally be presented within 3 months of the effective date of termination. A claim for redundancy payment has to be made within 6 months of the relevant date. Only in truly exceptional circumstances, a tribunal may allow you to make a complaint out of time. You may, as an alternative, bring a breach of contract claim in the county or high court, within six years of the effective date of termination.

If you would like to find out more about the services that we provide, please visit our website mfg Solicitors Maternity Rights

mfg Solicitors Employment Law advice on all issues relating to your employment.


16 Responses

  1. I have been trying to find information for US employees of a UK company. Are there any entitlements to the US employees that the UK employees enjoy (6 weeks 90% pay etc…) or are they only allowed US maternity leave allowances (12 weeks unpaid)?

  2. I have been on Maternity Leave since May 5,2008 – I spoke with my employer on that date regarding Maternity leave. They advised they are only legally responsible to pay me for 6 weeks after I have the baby and then I wouldbe able to return to work. I called them July 21, 2008 regarding returning to work and they advised they have terminated my position at the company – She wouldnt state that I was fired but advised my next step should be to file for unemployement. DO I have any rights against them? Or is this considered unfair dismissal?

  3. What state do you work in and what is the reason why they are firing you?

  4. Good day i would like to have same information related to unfair dismissal am doing a research topic pleace can you give the name of any company where is the location and in which country, also i fund the article that shawntay write is an interested can you provide me with the name of that company and in which country is these happen?


    kind regards

  5. Does my employer have an obligation to tell me if i am entitle to smp or not ? I handed in my MATB1 form on 8th august 15 weeks before my EDD and heard nothing back so assumed i would be getting it. I am now on maternity leave due to ill health and today i received SMP1 form telling me i am not entitle yet i was due to be paid next week so this has left me in a fine mess having to try and claim maternity allowance. Surely they could have informed me sooner.

  6. im23 weeks pregnant i will like to know if the 26 maternity leave is paid for in new jersey

  7. I took my maternity leave on Oct. 8th 08, I filled out all the required papers and my expected date to return to work was Jan 1st 09. I got a letter that said my maternity leave was approved and I should call in every week to let my employer know my states. My baby was born 2 weeks early so I was really busy and never got a chance to call in. Four weeks into my maternity leave I received a letter that said I had been terminated and if I wanted to return to work I needed to fill out a new application. Is this legal? I live in Oregon. Please let me know, thanks.

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  10. Are these above mentioned rights also valid for State of Maryland. My bosses are indirectly forcing me to take early off from my work,and creating negative environment around me saying anything might go wrong. My due date is Sept 17th,2011. I am not comfortable with their behavior and i don;t want to take 1.5 month advance leave prior to my due date. I have given them verbal notice for a maternity leave from October 10th, 2011 to Nov 10, 2011. They are also not paying me for my maternity leave. I want to know my rights being in this state. The only condition is that i am a non immigrant working on work visa. and its been 3.5 year with this company. Please advice

  11. thanks for all the great information but what im looking for isnt here and I was wondering if anyone knows if it is legal for my boss to push me to take maternity leave sooner than I would like? I work in a restaurant as a server and so if im not working im not getting paid. I feel that i am still able to work all my shifts for at least another month but she is pushing for me to start dropping shifts. I havent shown any physical reasons why I cant complete my duties as always or missed any days because of the pregnancy and so I was wondering if someone can give me some information before I get bullied into giving up shifts?

  12. How does maternity leave apply to independent contractors? For example, my wedding photographer was supposed to offer proofs within 6 weeks. She failed to do that, and now claims that she is on maternity leave… and that because of that she has not breached contract. Mind you, I was supposed to receive proofs in mid October of last year. I believe she gave birth in December. It is now February and still no word other than an automated message that asks customers to be patient while she is on maternity leave.

  13. Can an employer force an employee to take sick/personal time BEFORE using up their vacation time when on maturity leave?

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