Your maternity rights

Maternity pay, maternity leave: here's what you're entitled to and how to make sure you get it.

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Maternity leave 

You are entitled to take a year’s maternity leave. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve worked for your employer, or whether you are full or part time. The first six months is called Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and the second six months is Additional Maternity Leave (AML).

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The earliest date you can stop work is 11 weeks before your baby is due, though you can choose to work right up until your baby arrives.

While you are on OML you still enjoy all the same rights and conditions as if you were at work every day, which means you keep your company car and your holiday entitlement continues to accrue.

If you change your mind about going back to work after the baby is born, don’t panic. Lots of mums aren’t sure how they’ll feel about this until their baby arrives.  You will not have to pay back your Statutory Maternity Pay if you don’t return.

Maternity pay

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for 39 weeks – six weeks at 90% of your normal pay, then 33 weeks at £128.73, or 90% of your usual pay if that is lower. 

Some employers are more generous tough, and your company may offer more than your basic rights, such as full pay, so check out your contract.

If you were working for your employer before falling pregnant and earn at least £90 a week, you will most likely qualify for SMP.

If you don’t qualify because you are self-employed, earn too little or changed jobs while pregnant, you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance of £128.73 a week for 39 weeks. You will need to apply to your local Jobcentre Plus with form MA1.

Free prescriptions

You will get free prescriptions while pregnant and for a year after your baby is born. You need to fill in form FW8, which you can get from your doctor, midwife or health visitor. 

You will be sent an exemption certificate lasting for 12 months from your due date.

You will also get free NHS dental care while expecting and for a year after the birth.

Visit the website direct.gov.uk for more information about matenrity rights. 

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What about dads?

Click here for info about paternity rights.

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