For those who are pregnant and currently in employment, knowing what leave they're entitled to when their baby is born is important. And managers need to know where they stand on this important topic, too.

Essentially, in the UK, employees are legally allowed 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave. This is there for the taking, no matter how long someone has been in a job, how many hours they work or how much they get paid.

Maternity leave is divided up into three distinct periods:

  • Compulsory Maternity Leave - Following the birth of a child, mothers are obliged to take the first two weeks off work. If they work in a factory, this period is extended to four weeks.
  • Ordinary Maternity Leave, or OML - This refers to the initial 26 weeks of maternity leave.
  • Additional Maternity Leave, or AML - This is the following 26 weeks of maternity leave available to those who want to take more time off work than just the Ordinary Maternity Leave. Additional Maternity Leave begins immediately after Ordinary Maternity Leave ends.

How much maternity leave a mum decides to take depends on individual circumstances, and they're certainly not obliged to take the full 52 weeks off. Often, many new parents share maternity leave, under the flexible parental leave system. However, it's crucial that workers give their employer the right amount of notice of their intention regarding maternity leave arrangements.

Additionally, some employers offer staff the option to work for up to 10 days during their maternity leave, called Keeping In Touch (KIT) days.

Returning to a previous job after Additional Maternity Leave

Although Additional Maternity Leave might seem similar to Ordinary Maternity Leave, there's a distinct difference. If someone only takes Ordinary Maternity Leave, they're entitled to return to their previous job role. With Additional Maternity Leave, however, an employer isn't obliged to give back their previous job, if it's no longer practical. Instead, an employer must offer a similar role that boasts the same salary, terms and expectations as the previous position.

Payment during Additional Maternity Leave

Another thing to consider when arranging Additional Maternity Leave is that an employee might not get paid for the full duration. Normally, they're entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay or, alternatively, Maternity Allowance for the entire period of Ordinary Maternity Leave, as well as the first 13 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave.

However, this means the remaining 13 weeks that cover Additional Maternity Leave will normally be unpaid, and during this time they also won't be entitled to any accrued pension rights.

Benefits during Additional Maternity Leave

An employee is still entitled to other non-payment benefits, such as a gym membership, company car or health insurance, as part of their contract, whether they opt for Ordinary Maternity Leave or extend it to Additional Maternity Leave. Prior to 2008, this wasn't the case, and such benefits were only applicable to those who took Ordinary Maternity Leave.

Holiday accrual during Additional Maternity Leave

Mothers still accrue annual leave during their maternity leave, although this can't be taken (ie. paid in lieu) during their maternity leave. Some employees tack annual leave on to the start of their maternity leave, or when their Additional Maternity Leave finishes. This policy is at the discretion of the company.

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