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A female employee who can satisfy the relevant qualifying conditions has the following statutory maternity rights:
- paid time off to receive ante-natal care;
- 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave;
- protection from dismissal by reason of pregnancy or childbirth;
- protection from suffering a detriment by reason of pregnancy, childbirth or maternity;
- maternity pay;
- return to work after ordinary maternity leave or additional maternity leave;
- an offer of alternative work before being suspended on maternity grounds; and
- remuneration on any suspension for maternity grounds.
In order to qualify for maternity rights, an employee must generally notify her employer of her pregnancy, the expected week of childbirth (“EWC”) and the date on which she intends her ordinary maternity leave to start, no later than the 15th week before her EWC or, if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as reasonably practicable. Additionally, if asked to do so by her employer, she must produce for the employer’s inspection a certificate from a registered medical practitioner or a registered midwife stating the EWC.
Any employee who is entitled to ordinary maternity leave is not allowed to work for her employer for the period of two weeks commencing with the day on which childbirth occurs. If an employer fails to comply with this prohibition, they may be liable on summary conviction to a fine.
In order to qualify for statutory maternity pay, the employee must have (i) been continuously employed by her employer for at least 26 weeks ending with the week immediately preceding the 14th week before the EWC, but have ceased to work for him, (ii) her normal weekly earnings for the period of 8 weeks ending with the week immediately preceding the 14th week before the EWC must not be less than the lower limit for the payment of National Insurance contributions, and (iii) she must have become pregnant and reached, or been confined before reaching, the start of the 11th week before the expected week of confinement. If an employee does not qualify for statutory maternity pay, she may qualify for maternity allowance instead.
There are other family friendly rights, including paternity leave, parental leave, adoption leave and the right to request flexible working. If you would like advice on any of these areas, please telephone our specialist employment solicitor, Albert Bargery, on 01296 318508 to discuss the matter further.