How long is paid maternity leave?

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Maternity leave is the time taken from work before/during/after childbirth.

How long is paid maternity leave?

All employed pregnant women are entitled to a year’s maternity leave.  In most cases, women are entitled to 39 weeks of that maternity leave paid at Statutory Maternity Pay rates. We’ll cover the basics, as well as some other maternity matters to be aware of.

How long is typical maternity leave?

If you are pregnant and employed, you’re entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave.  It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for your employer; you’re still entitled to the full 52 weeks’ maternity leave.

The 52 weeks is divided into 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), followed by 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML). More on the differences between OML and AML below.

You can tell your employer that you want to return earlier than 52 weeks, but the starting assumption is that you’ll take the full year off.  If you do want to return early, you have to give 8 weeks’ notice.

Do you get full pay on maternity leave?

The basic statutory maternity pay is 6 weeks at 90% of your average weekly pay, then 36 weeks at Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) rates.  These change every April – to give you an idea, it’s £156.66 from April 2022 to April 2023 – see our Employment Facts and Figures for the up to date amount.  If 90% of your average weekly pay is less than that, you’ll get the lower amount.

Some employers pay more than the statutory minimum – details will usually be in the staff handbook, on the intranet, or available from HR.  As long as your employer pays the statutory minimum, there’s no requirement on them to do more.

Does everyone get statutory maternity pay?

No.  You can only get SMP if you’ve worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks before the 15th week before the week your baby is due. Basically, it works out that if you’re already pregnant when you start work, you won’t get SMP.

If you can’t get SMP, you might get Maternity Allowance, but will need to apply directly to the DWP – Maternity Allowance is paid direct, whereas your employer deals with SMP.

Can I work while on maternity leave?

Yes – you can do up to 10 “keeping in touch” or “KIT” days for your employer during maternity leave without bringing your leave to an end or losing your right to SMP. You can agree with your employer whether you are going to do any KIT days, the type of work/training you’re going to do, and what you’ll be paid.

Can employers say no to KIT days?

There’s no requirement that the employer allows the employee to do any KIT days, nor is the employee obliged to do them if asked.

Will I be paid for working on a KIT day?

Most employers would pay your normal full day’s pay.  Your employer can offset your SMP against KIT day pay.  It’s worth asking what you’ll be paid if you do any KIT days, so you know what to expect.

There are lots of protections around maternity leave and returning to work.

What is the difference between ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave?

The first 26 weeks maternity leave is ordinary maternity leave (OML), and the second 26 weeks is additional maternity leave (AML). The terms date back to when maternity leave was less generous but are still used even though they’re a bit confusing.

The main thing to remember is that, although you can take a full year off work, your rights about returning to work change when you move into the AML period. See “Can I go back to the same job after maternity leave?”

Can I go back to the same job after maternity leave?

If you return to work at or before the end of the OML period, so haven’t taken more than 26 weeks’ maternity leave (remember, this isn’t necessarily 26 weeks after the birth, it’s 26 weeks in total), you are entitled to return to your own job, as it was before maternity leave.  You’re also entitled to any pay rises that have been introduced.

However, if you return during or at the end of AML – so you’ve taken some AML, whether a week or 26 weeks’ AML – you’re entitled to return to your own job unless that’s “not reasonably practicable”.

What is “reasonably practicable” I hear you ask? Good question. It will depend on the circumstances, unfortunately.

It would be rare for it to not be reasonably practicable for an employee on maternity leave to return to her own job after AML.  Redundancy is a classic example.  But the fact that your temp maternity cover has done a good job does NOT mean you are redundant!

There are lots of protections for pregnant women and women on maternity leave – and of course for people on shared parental leave, adoption leave, paternity leave, and all types of “family friendly” leave.  By focussing on pregnancy and maternity in this blog, we are absolutely not ignoring other family issues – we’re very conscious that not all pregnancies end with a baby, and that adoption, IVF, and surrogacy also raise issues about time off and carry important rights. We’ll cover other rights and types of leave elsewhere – if we tried to put it all in one place, this would be a book rather than this pithy, easy to read blog!

If you need advice about anything mentioned in this blog, or are concerned about anything your employer is doing or proposing to do, just get in touch with us at and we’ll arrange a time for a brief chat to get initial details and talk through how we can help.

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