Maternity leave and pay
It is against the law to discriminate against you because you are pregnant or on maternity leave. If you have been treated differently because of this, you can enforce your rights.
The treatment could be a one-off incident or a series of events which when added together result in you being treated unfairly. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful.
What are my maternity rights?
Your main rights are:
- All employees are entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave. It doesn’t matter how long you have worked there.
- You will receive Statutory Maternity Pay, provided you have been employed continuously for 26 weeks prior to the 15th week before you are due to give birth.
- Your contractual benefits, accrual of annual leave and employer pension contributions will continue throughout maternity leave.
- At the end of your maternity leave, you have the right to return to your job. If a redundancy situation arises, you will be given preferential treatment and must be offered suitable alternative employment if one is available.
If your employer denies you these rights, you can take action.
What is my Statutory Maternity leave?
Statutory Maternity Leave gives all employees up to one year off work. This is broken down into 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave.
Do I receive pay and benefits when on maternity leave?
During Statutory Maternity Leave, your employment terms and conditions are protected.
You keep all your normal employment rights and benefits (but not your wages) throughout all of your Statutory Maternity Leave such as annual leave, membership of health clubs or health insurance. You may also be entitled to be paid any bonus which is awarded whilst you are on leave. If your employer contributes to an occupational pension scheme, they must carry on making their usual contributions for the whole time you are on Ordinary Maternity Leave.
How much notice do I need to give to take maternity leave?
You should give your employer at least 15 weeks’ notice of when your baby is due. If you did not realise you were pregnant, you should tell your employer as soon as possible.
You should inform them that you are pregnant, when the baby is due and when you want to start your maternity leave. You can change the start date provided you give at least 28 days’ notice.
Will I qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay?
You will be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay if you have 26 weeks’ continuous service with your employer in the 15th week before you are due to give birth.
You must also have average earnings of at least £113 per week in the eight weeks leading up to the 15th week before you are due to give birth.
If you qualify, Statutory Maternity Pay is payable for 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks you will receive 90% of your earnings. For the remaining 33 weeks, you will be entitled to £140.98 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
Will working affect my maternity pay?
You can work for up to 10 days whilst receiving Statutory Maternity Pay without losing out. These are called ‘Keeping In Touch’ days. Work more than 10 days and you will lose Statutory Maternity Pay for each week in which you work.
Can I be made redundant during maternity leave?
Yes, but it is one of the few areas of law where an employer is allowed to ‘positively discriminate’ in your favour. You have the right to be offered any suitable alternative vacancy, if one is available, without an interview. This right is over and above what your colleagues are entitled to , who are not on maternity leave.
If your employer cannot offer you suitable alternative work, you may be entitled to redundancy pay.
Can I return to my old job?
Yes. At the end of maternity leave, you have the right to return to your original role, on the same terms and conditions you had prior to your maternity leave.
I want to change my working hours when I go back to work?
You have a right to request to change your working patterns by making a request for flexible working.
What happens if I am dismissed during my maternity leave?
If you are dismissed during maternity leave, your employment and maternity leave will come to an end. If, you are receiving Statutory Maternity Pay, it should continue for the remainder of the 39-week period.
If you are dismissed because of your pregnancy or for being on maternity leave, you may have a claim for pregnancy discrimination and unfair dismissal.
Am I entitled to be told why I have been fired?
You have an automatic right to receive written reasons without having to request them. If you haven’t been provided with the reason, you can bring a claim.
I have been discriminated against. What compensation am I entitled to?
Unlike in most cases, there is no maximum amount of compensation a Tribunal can award you if you have been discriminated against.
In addition to damages for any losses you have suffered – such as wages or pension, compensation normally includes an award for injury to feelings. Tribunals are guided in what to award:
- Lower band (less serious cases): £900 to £9,000
- Middle band: £9,000 to £27,000
- Upper band (the most serious cases): £27,000 to £45,000
In exceptional cases, the award will be over £45,000
What do I do now?
This is where we come in. Employment law is all we do.
It can often feel like your employer holds all the power. They will likely have experienced HR professionals or a solicitor working in the background. That’s why you need the best support and advice available. You need a specialist employment lawyer – one who will push for the best outcome for you.
We understand how it feels. We have helped hundreds of employees and because we act for businesses too, we know the tactics you’re likely to face from your employer. We every trick in the book.
We will advise you of your options and how best to proceed – whether you want to return to work or you would like us to negotiate an exit on your behalf.
You only have a limited amount of time to take action to preserve your employment rights – usually just three months (less one day) from the date of the last act of discrimination or your employment ends.
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