Your maternity rights explained

Telling your boss, requesting flexible hours and maternity leave – what are the rules when you're pregnant and working?

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When do I tell my boss I’m pregnant?

The sooner you tell your boss that you’re pregnant, the better, as it will give them more time to plan ahead. But if you want to keep it quiet for a while, you must still tell your employer at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby’s due.

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Carefully organise a meeting to tell your boss the news when you know you’ll have their full attention, rather than grabbing a minute when they’re busy.

You’ll need to tell your employer when your baby’s due, and when you want to start your maternity leave – but you can change the date later as long as you give 28 days’ notice.

Your employer may ask for your notice in writing, and also for a copy of Form MAT B1, which your doctor or midwife will give you. This form just confirms when your baby’s due.

Be prepared for questions your employer might ask. Can you help find a replacement? Will you be able to finish that project? Make it clear that you’ll be flexible when taking time off for antenatal checkups, and stay in touch during your leave.

You also have the right to take paid time off to attend antenatal checkups while you’re still working.

Can I ask to work flexibly while I’m pregnant?

You don’t have a legal right to request flexible hours but it’s always worth asking – especially if you can highlight the benefits. For example, you won’t be so tired at work if you don’t have to commute and you’ll be able to get more work done if you’re less tired and can concentrate without distraction.

What maternity leave am I entitled to?

Every pregnant woman is entitled to take 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), plus an extra 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML), after new laws regarding maternity leave were introduced in April 2007.

You can start your maternity leave any time from 11 weeks before the beginning of the week when your baby’s due. Or you can keep working right up until when you give birth!

If you’re off work sick because of your pregnancy in the four weeks before your expected due date, your employer can make you start your maternity leave then.

If you’re a workaholic, you don’t have to take all your maternity leave, but it’s compulsory that you take at least two weeks after your baby’s born, or four weeks if you work in a factory.

What happens to my annual leave and other job benefits?

While you’re on maternity leave, you’ll keep your normal employment rights and benefits. This means that you’ll still be able to build up statutory annual leave (of four weeks) during both Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and Additional Maternity Leave (AML).

However, any additional holiday you may be entitled to under your contract can only be accrued during the first 26 weeks (that’s during your Ordinary Maternity Leave, or OML).

You can take your holiday at the beginning or the end of your leave, but if your leave runs over two holiday years you won’t be able to carry it over, so it’s probably best to take it at the beginning. 

Mum’s story

“Being able to take a full year off was fantastic”

“We were lucky enough to be able to afford for me to take a full year’s maternity leave, although we had to make cutbacks. I hadn’t been in my job long enough to qualify for extra maternity pay, so I received the basic Statutory Maternity Pay. I didn’t feel ready to come back to work after six months, and felt much happier putting Phoebe in daycare when she was a bit older. I was definitely ready to go back to work after the year, though – it feels like a rest compared to looking after a baby!”

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Polly, 31, mum to Phoebe 21 months

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