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HMRC internal manual

Statutory Payments Manual

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP): general information - maternity leave

Ordinary Maternity Leave

All pregnant employees are entitled to 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave. This applies regardless of length of service

The contract of employment continues during ordinary maternity leave.

During her ordinary maternity leave period the employee must continue to receive all her contractual benefits even if she does not receive her normal wages or salary.

If the employee satisfies the terms and conditions set out in section 164 of the Social Security (Contributions and Benefits) Act 1992 and section 160 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits (Northern Ireland) Act 1992 they will be entitled to SMP. Some may also get contractual pay from their employer. Women who cannot get SMP are still entitled to ordinary maternity leave and may be entitled to additional maternity leave. They may also get MA from the Jobcentre Plus/Jobs and Benefits office (NI).

An employee must take two weeks (or four weeks if working in a factory) compulsory maternity leave from the date the child is born and cannot work (or use a KIT day) during that time.

The employee should tell her employer when she expects to stop work and start her leave by the Saturday of the 15th week before the week the baby is due and when she expects to return to work. She can change her mind about the start date but should give her employer 28 days’ notice of her intended new start date.

Additional Maternity Leave

Employees who have completed 26 weeks’ continuous employment by the beginning of the 14th week before the expected week of childbirth are entitled to 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave.

Additional maternity leave begins at the end of ordinary maternity leave. Although the contract of employment continues during additional maternity leave, some terms of the employment contract may not continue during additional maternity leave. The continuance of any terms and conditions of the contract are a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee.

Returning after Maternity Leave

If the mother is returning to work from maternity leave earlier than previously planned or later than the previously agreed date she must give her employer eight weeks’ notice of when she intends to start work again.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have guidance which gives information about Maternity Leave and Paternity Leave, go to GOV.UK.

In Northern Ireland the Department for Employment and Learning (DELNI) gives information on these rights.