The rules on maternity leave are very complicated as such you should seek the advice of an experienced employment solicitor.
A pregnant employee must notify the employer no later than 15 weeks before the baby is due. If it is not possible to notify the employer, for instance the employee did not know they were pregnant then the employer must be notified as soon as practicable. Your employer must then make a risk assessment and if any risks are identified, then the employer must eliminate them. The employer is under a legal obligation to assess any health and safety issues.
All pregnant employees are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care, from the second appointment the employer can ask for evidence of appointments.
Maternity leave is given to all pregnant employees, regardless of the length of employment. There are three types of maternity leave:
- Ordinary maternity leave;
- Compulsory maternity leave; and
- Additional maternity leave.
Ordinary maternity leave
Ordinary maternity leave allows for 26 weeks of absence. The contract of employment remains throughout this period, and the employee continues to benefit, except for remuneration. The employee can start ordinary maternity leave 11 weeks before the baby is due. If childbirth occurs early then ordinary leave starts immediately.
Upon returning to work from ordinary maternity leave the whole period of absence will count for pension and seniority purposes.
Compulsory maternity leave
The employer is not permitted to allow the employee to return to work for the two weeks after child birth.
Additional maternity leave
Additional maternity leave lasts for another 26 weeks and starts after the ordinary maternity leave. The contractual benefits are the same as under the ordinary maternity leave. The right to return under ordinary maternity leave is to the same job, but under additional maternity leave if this is not reasonably practicable for the employer, then to a job that is "suitable" and "appropriate for her to do in the circumstance".
There is no notice requirement if the employee intends to return at the end of maternity leave but if she intends to return early, then eight weeks notice must be given.
Statutory Maternity Pay
Statutory maternity pay is payable for nine months. The first six weeks are paid at 90% of the employee's salary. The remaining 33 weeks is at 90% of the employee's salary or the statutory prescribed amount, whichever is lower.
As the employment law is complex in this area, if you believe you have suffered a detriment, simply you feel you have not been treated fairly in respect of a maternity related issue you should contact an employment solicitor. This could amount to discrimination and an employment claim.
It is unlawful for an employer to treat a woman less favourably because of pregnancy or maternity or change your terms and condition of employment whilst the employee is pregnant.
A dismissal connected with pregnancy or maternity is automatically unfair.