New and expectant mothers

In the UK, employment legislation provides new and expectant mothers with special rights and protection, including the right to:
• take time off for antenatal care;

• maternity leave and pay;
• return to work to the same job (or another that is suitable and appropriate, depending upon the length of maternity leave);
• request flexible working; and
• protection from suffering a detriment or dismissal on the grounds of her pregnancy.

All new mothers (irrespective of length of service):

• must take two weeks’ maternity leave (four if they work in a factory) after the birth of their baby. It is prohibited to deduct the two-week period of compulsory maternity leave from any calculation of a discretionary bonus.
• may take 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave (SML), providing they inform their employer in writing (no later than the end of the 15th week before their expected week of childbirth (EWC)) that they are pregnant, the date of their EWC and the date they intend their maternity leave to start.

A new mother is entitled to 39 weeks’ Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if, by the end of the 15th week before the EWC:

• she has been continuously employed for 26 weeks; and
• her normal weekly earnings for the previous eight weeks were not less than the lower earnings limit for the payment of primary class I National Insurance contributions.

During maternity leave, an employee has a statutory right to benefit from the terms and conditions that would have applied to her had she been at work, except for the terms providing for her remuneration. Therefore, all benefits, such as private health insurance and childcare vouchers, will continue.