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maternity rights

The rights a woman has against her employer when she is absent from work wholly or partly because of her pregnancy or confinement. An employee is entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay if she has been working for the same employer continuously for at least six months ending in the 15th week before the baby is due, pays National Insurance, and leaves work between the 11th and 6th week before the expected date of confinement. The statutory rate is paid for a period of 18 weeks. Women who have worked more than 16 hours a week for two years, or more than eight hours a week for five years, are entitled to a higher statutory rate (nine-tenths of their normal average weekly pay) for the first six weeks of their absence in addition to the lower rate for a further 12 weeks. Employers recover the amount of the payments by setting the amount against their National Insurance payments. They can require the employee to provide them with evidence of the baby’s birth.

The employee is also entitled to return to her former job at any time within 29 weeks after the beginning of the week of the baby’s birth provided she notifies her employer in writing three weeks before she leaves work (or if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as possible) of the reason for her absence, her intention to return, and the expected date of her confinement. The employer may demand the appropriate doctor’s certificate. He may also, within 49 days after the actual or expected week of confinement, seek the employee’s written confirmation of her intention to return. Provided he clearly advises her in writing of the consequences of her failure to reply, the employee’s right to return is lost if she does not give written confirmation within 14 days after the employer’s written request.

The employee must give her employer three weeks’ notice of the date on which she intends to resume work; the employer can defer that date by up to four weeks. The employee may also defer her return once by up to four weeks if she provides a doctor’s certificate saying that she is not yet fit to resume work. If the employer refuses to allow her to return, the employee is treated as having been continuously employed up to the intended date of return notified to her employer and as having been dismissed on that date for the reason for which she was not allowed to return. If she complains to an industrial tribunal that she has been unfairly dismissed (see *unfair dismissal), the dismissal will be treated as fair under the Employment Act 1980 if the employer shows that it was not reasonably practicable to allow her to return, that the dismissal would have been reasonable if she had not been absent, or that in any event she would properly have been made redundant during her absence. All pregnant employees are entitled to reasonable time off, with pay, for antenatal care.

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