Do you know your maternity rights?

Experts at a City Law Firm give some advice on your rights during maternity leave, covering issues such as redundancy and keeping in touch.

Here are some FAQs on maternity leave and discrimination in employment.

What statutory maternity leave am I entitled to?

Eligible employees can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, the last 26 weeks as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’. Some employers offer more than the statutory amounts through a company maternity scheme.

The earliest leave can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Employees must take at least 2 weeks after the birth (or 4 weeks if they’re a factory worker). Employers will assume you will take 52 weeks’ maternity leave if you do not give a return date, but if you want to come back earlier you should give at least eight weeks’ notice. If you do not plan to return, you must hand in your notice in the normal way.

Can I be expected to work during my maternity leave?

Employees can work up to 10 days during their maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave. These days are called ‘keeping in touch days’.

Keeping in touch days are optional, both the employee and employer need to agree to them. The type of work and pay employees get should be agreed before they come into work. The employee’s right to maternity, adoption or additional paternity leave and pay isn’t affected by taking keeping in touch days.

Can the terms and conditions of my employment be changed whilst I am away?

Normally, the employment terms and conditions are protected and employees are entitled to any pay rises and improvements in terms and conditions given during their leave. Pension contributions usually stop if a period of leave is unpaid. For example, unpaid periods of maternity leave or parental leave.

Employees continue to build up holiday entitlement and can take any holiday they’ve accrued (built up) before or after their leave.

Can my job be different when I return to work?

Employees have the right to return to their job if they take:

– Ordinary Maternity or Ordinary Adoption leave

– Ordinary Paternity Leave

– Additional Paternity Leave

– Four weeks or less of parental leave

The rules are different if the employee takes:

– Additional Maternity or Additional Adoption Leave

– More than 4 weeks of parental leave

In this situation, employees have the right to their job or a similar job (if it’s not possible to give them their old job). Similar means the job has the same or better terms and conditions. If the employee unreasonably refuses to take the similar job the employer can take this as their resignation. However, an employer cannot decide unilaterally that you can no longer cope in a role and reduce your salary, hours or responsibilities.

Can I be made redundant whilst on maternity leave?

While an employee is on maternity, adoption, paternity or parental leave they have the same redundancy rights as their colleagues plus the right to be offered any suitable alternative job if they’re selected for redundancy (even if other colleagues are more suitable for the role).

An employee can only be made redundant if the employer can clearly justify doing it – eg a part of the business closes and everyone in that section is made redundant. There are other rules for employers when making staff redundant. If its clear they are making you redundant because you will be returning as a mum, because you have requested flexible working or just because you are on maternity leave this is discrimination and thus unlawful.

What is discrimination and am I protected from discrimination whilst on maternity leave?

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of a ‘protected characteristic’ , which includes being pregnant or having a child or because of your gender. You’re protected against any form of discrimination at work by the Equality Act 2010.

You’re also protected from discrimination if you’re associated with someone who has a protected characteristic, eg a family member or friend or you’ve complained about discrimination or supported someone else’s claim So yes you are protected against discrimination whether in the work place or still on maternity leave.

How you can you be discriminated against?

Discrimination can come in one of the following forms:

– direct discrimination – treating someone less favourably than others (salary or responsibilities )

– indirect discrimination – putting rules or arrangements in place that apply to everyone, but that put someone , like a mum, at an unfair disadvantage

– harassment – unwanted behaviour that violates someone’s dignity or creates an offensive environment for them. This can be physical contact or jokes or aggressive actions

– victimisation – treating someone unfairly because they’ve complained about discrimination or harassment

If you have suffered any form of discrimination or suspect you are you will have the right to issue a written grievance – issue a claim at the Tribunal – in some cases constructively dismiss yourself.

*If you would like specific advice in respect of a problem you are facing or just need general information, please contact one of the team at A City Law Firm LLP who will be able to assist you further.




Comments [10]

  • James turner says:

    Hi
    I’ve just had my 2nd child 6 weeks ago and I have been offered a job which is very flexible and working from home 2 days with the potential to be a great career in the future.
    My issue is I was made redundant while I was pregnant, the company i worked for still honoured the 12 weeks full pay mat leave and then the 27 weeks at stat, this was all paid in 1 lump sum and I don’t know if I would be liable to lose any of this.

    If I was to take the job it would be the 12th week but obviously there is the stat.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Regards

  • Sarah green says:

    The company that I work for has just been placed into liquidation, due to the nature of the business there will no assets to realise. I have 5 months left of maternity, who will pay this?

    • Mandy Garner

      Mandy Garner says:

      Hi Sarah,
      Our tax expert Des Desai says: She should contact whoever is handling the liquidation of the company – the Insolvency Practitioner – and he should liaise with the Department of Work and Pensions. Not only should she receive her Maternity but also Holiday Pay, Pay in Lieu of Notice etc. It might take a few weeks, but usually payments due to employees is one of the first things that’s sorted out when a liquidation happens.

  • Laura says:

    I am currently on a rolling contract as a teaching assistant. I am taking my full maternity leave including ordinary and additional leave. I was informed by the head teachers secretary that due to the fact I’m on a rolling contract, they don’t have to keep a position open for me, is this the case? What are my rights if any? Thank you in advance.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm on additional maternity leave just now and have just found out I'm pregnant. How long do I have to go back to work for to get maternity pay again?

    Editor: SMP is based in part on you earning at least £111 a week in the eight weeks leading up to your 26th week so if you are now in the unpaid part of your maternity leave, you would need to be back for that qualifying period of the eight weeks before the 26th week to qualify.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm on additional maternity leave just now and have just found out I'm pregnant. How long do I have to go back to work for to get maternity pay again?

    Editor: SMP is based in part on you earning at least £111 a week in the eight weeks leading up to your 26th week so if you are now in the unpaid part of your maternity leave, you would need to be back for that qualifying period of the eight weeks before the 26th week to qualify.

  • Anonymous says:

    My doc has signed me of sick however my maternity can't start for Another 4 wks will this affect my maternity pay , ? I'm 25 wks pregnant .

    Editor: SMP is based on your average weekly earnings [take home pay] in the eight weeks leading to the 26th week of your pregnancy so if you are on SSP for this last week it could affect your average. You need to earn a weekly average of at least £111 in the eight weeks to qualify.

  • Anonymous says:

    My doc has signed me of sick however my maternity can't start for Another 4 wks will this affect my maternity pay , ? I'm 25 wks pregnant .

    Editor: SMP is based on your average weekly earnings [take home pay] in the eight weeks leading to the 26th week of your pregnancy so if you are on SSP for this last week it could affect your average. You need to earn a weekly average of at least £111 in the eight weeks to qualify.


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