Maternity leave laws explained

If you’re a working mum, you’re entitled to paid time at home with your newborn


As an employee, you have the right to 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), plus 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML), making one year in total. Provided you meet certain notification requirements (you should tell your employer at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby’s due), you can take this no matter how long you’ve been with your employer, how many hours you work, or how much you’re paid. You can continue to be an employee throughout your ordinary and your additional maternity leave.


You’re also entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks; as long as you meet certain conditions (see for details). You’ll get 90% of your weekly earnings for 6 weeks, then up to £117.18 a week for 33 weeks.

Bear in mind that your employer may have a more generous scheme that the statutory maternity leave scheme. Check your contract of employment or staff handbook, or ask your employer – and remember, your employer can’t offer you less than your statutory rights.

There are also extra pregnancy benefits…

Now that you’re expecting, you’re entitled to certain freebies!

  • The Healthy Start Scheme provides vouchers for fresh fruit, vegetables, milk and infant formula to pregnant women under 18 years of age and low-income mums-to-be or families with children under four years old. See to check if you qualify. Pregnant women and mums to children under four receive £3 a week per child, or £6 for babies under one.
  • Throughout your pregnancy and your child’s first year, you are entitled to free medical prescriptions and dental care.
  • You do not legally have to notify your employer of your pregnancy until the 15th week before your due date, but once you do a Health and Safety Assessment should be performed. If potential dangers are found, then you should be transferred to a different role, or have changes made to your working environment to ensure your safety.
  • You are entitled to paid time off for antenatal care. This includes antenatal classes, appointments with a doctor, midwife or consultant, and any other classes that your medical advisor recommends.
  • Every pregnant woman is entitled to 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave, commencing no earlier than 11 weeks before the expected due date.
  • During this leave, you will still be entitled to all your contractual benefits (apart from salary). This can include a company car and petrol allowance, and you can also continue to accrue holiday at your normal rate.

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