Maternity leave and pay


This guide will help you comply with the laws on statutory maternity leave and pay.

All pregnant employees are:

  • entitled to take 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave (SML) around the birth of their child
  • protected from suffering detriment or dismissal for taking SML
  • entitled to benefit from her existing terms and conditions, except those relating to wages or salary, during SML

The right to maternity leave

All pregnant employees, ie those working under a contract of employment, are entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave (SML) around the birth of their child. Employees automatically qualify for SML – it does not matter how long the employee has worked for you.

The 52 week SML period is made up of 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave (OML) followed immediately by 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave (AML).

Compulsory maternity leave

An employee must take a minimum of two weeks’ leave after the birth of her child – or four weeks if she works in a factory. You must not allow her to work during this time.

Multiple births

SML remains at 52 weeks regardless of the number of children resulting from a single pregnancy.

Stillbirth and miscarriage

If your employee gives birth to a stillborn baby, she is still entitled to maternity leave if the birth happens after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

If a stillbirth or miscarriage occurs before the end of the 24th week of pregnancy, you could allow the employee to take sick or compassionate leave instead.

When a baby dies

If the baby is born alive at any point in the pregnancy but then later dies, the employee is still entitled to SML.

Enhanced maternity leave

You can also provide enhanced maternity leave arrangements to attract and retain employees.

For example, you could allow employees with more than a year’s service to take more than 52 weeks’ leave.

You can offer these arrangements either as a contractual right or on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, but use caution when exercising discretion to avoid claims of unfair treatment or discrimination.

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