Rights Arising on Pregnancy
All pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care. In addition, pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. This consists of 26 weeks’ Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks’ Additional Maternity Leave.
If you meet the qualifying conditions, you will be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) whilst on Maternity Leave. You must have been employed by your employer for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, and your average weekly earnings must at least equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions.
You will be entitled to up to 39 weeks of SMP, which at the time of writing is £117.18/week, unless your weekly pay is less than this, in which case you will receive 90% of your weekly pay.
If you want to return to work earlier or later than you had agreed with your employer you will need to give your employer eight weeks notice. You have a right to return to the same job after maternity leave. However, if you take additional maternity leave and it is not reasonable practicable to keep your job open, your employer can offer you another job suitable for you and which has pay and conditions no worse than your previous job.
The SMP and Maternity Leave requirements are a statutory minimum which employers must not go below. However, you may be entitled to more generous terms, either through your individual contract of employment or through a collective agreement which your employer has reached with the union.
The Employment Act 2002 provides a right for the partner of the mother or adopter’ leave to take up to two weeks paternety leave. The partner could be the father, or someone (either female or male) who lives in an ‘enduring family relationship’ with the mother or adopter. In order to be eligible for the leave, the partner must have been employed for not less than 26 weeks prior to the 14th week before the birth or adoption.
Whilst on Paternity Leave, you will be entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay (SMP), which is payable at the same rate as SMP.
Pregnancy Related Dismissal
It is automatically unfair to dismiss you for a pregnancy-related reason or to fail to offer you a suitable available vacancy. If a redundancy has occurred during your maternity leave and it is not reasonably practicable to give you your old job back, you must be offered suitable alternative employment on terms that are no less favourable to you than to other employees. It will also be discrimination on grounds of sex to dismiss a woman for pregnancy-related reasons.
All employees who have been employed continuously for one year have the right to take parental leave for the purpose of caring for a child. The right applies to all employees who have parental responsibility for a child.
In such cases each parent has the right to take up to 13 weeks’ leave for the purpose of caring for each child until the child’s fifth birthday or in cases of adoption, the fifth anniversary of adoption or until the adopted child’s 18th birthday, whichever is sooner.
A maximum of four weeks’ parental leave may be taken in a year, and this leave can only be taken in minimum blocks of one week's duration. Any period requested less than one week counts as one whole week. The leave is unpaid unless the employer agrees otherwise.
Parents of disabled children are able to use their leave over a longer period, until the child’s 18th birthday. The maximum period of leave for parents of disabled children is 18 weeks. Whether a child is disabled is determined by whether he or she is entitled to disability living allowance.
People who wish to take parental leave immediately after the birth of their child, or when the child is placed for adoption, can do so if they have given their employer at least 13 weeks’ notice of this before the expected week of childbirth or adoption. This leave cannot be postponed by employers under any circumstances. Employees can complain to an Employment Tribunal if their employer infringes these rights, and dismissal for exercising or seeking to exercise these rights will be automatically unfair.
During the leave period, the contract of employment continues and you are entitled to carry out the same job and on the same terms and conditions when you return. The details of taking leave will be contained in a relevant collective or workforce agreement, or if none exists, then the default provisions contained in accompanying regulations apply which provide for specified periods of notice for requesting leave to be given by the employee. Employers have a limited right to postpone the leave by up to six months in certain instances.