Daisy Warner

Daisy Warner


June 20, 2023

Maternity and Paternity Leave and Rights

This article looks at the Statutory entitlement and rights for Maternity, Paternity, Shared, Adoption, Self-employed and Unpaid Leave.

Maternity and Paternity Leave and Rights

Statutory Leave is a legal entitlement for all employees in the UK who are expecting to have or receive a child, which includes mothers and fathers. This type of leave entitles eligible employees to leave and pay for a certain period of time.  

Maternity Leave entitlement 

Eligible employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, irrespective of how long they have worked at a company for. 

The birth parent i.e. the mother has to be legally classified as an employee and provide at least 28 days’ notice and proof of their pregnancy.

Maternity leave is split into two types of leave:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave – the first 26 weeks
  • Additional Maternity Leave – the last 26 weeks

Employees do not have to take all 52 weeks but they can take:

  • Up to 11 weeks before the due date
  • A minimum of 2 weeks following the birth, which may increase depending on the type of work e.g. 4 weeks for factory work

Maternity Pay 

Employees can expect to receive pay for 39 weeks of their maternity leave:

  • 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax for the first 6 weeks
  • £172.48 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (depending on which is the lower amount) for the remaining 33 weeks

The money will be paid as with the usual pay e.g. monthly, and tax and National Insurance will be deducted accordingly.

For more information on Maternity leave entitlement and pay, people can consult the UK government website.

Paternity Leave entitlement 

The father of the child also has the right for Statutory Leave and Pay, similar to mothers. The father must have been continuously employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks.

The employee must be the biological father or the partner of the birth parent, and expect responsibility for the child's upbringing, or care of their partner. 

They can choose to take either 1 or 2 weeks. For fathers, leave cannot start before the birth and it must end within 56 days of the birth. Some employers may include in their contracts that a father can get more than statutory paternity leave, which is called 'enhanced' or 'contractual' paternity leave.

Paternity Pay 

The statutory weekly rate of Paternity Pay is £172.48, or 90% of their average weekly earnings (depending on which is the lower amount). Money will be paid in the same way as usual pay e.g. monthly, and tax and National Insurance will continue to be deducted.

In order to be eligible for Paternity Pay, employees must provide at least 15 weeks before the baby.

Employees can learn more from Citizen’s Advice regarding any parental leave or entitlements. 

Rights during Maternity and Paternity Leave

Employees will still be entitled to most of their usual rights even while on Maternity/Paternity Leave, but there may be some differences in terms of the entitlements.

  • Pay: Employees will not receive their usual pay while they are receiving their Maternity/Paternity pay. 
  • Pay review: People on Maternity/Paternity Leave do have a right to any pay review, which will reflect their period of work, rather than the period of leave. 
  • Sick pay: People cannot get paid sick leave while they are receiving their Maternity/Paternity pay, but they may be entitled to it if they are still on leave but their maternity pay has finished. 
  • Holiday: Employees can still accrue holiday, including bank holidays, even on Maternity/Paternity Leave. However, they cannot take holiday during this time, but can discuss with their employer about taking their holiday entitlement before or after Maternity/Paternity Leave. 
  • Pension: An employer will still contribute their percentage to the work pension, and the employee will pay their share based on their Maternity/Paternity pay, not their usual pay.

Read more about parental rights from the Acas website.

Dismissal during parental leave 

An employee is protected under the Equality Act 2010 against any unfair treatment if a person is dismissed because they are pregnant or on parental leave. In these cases, people can take legal action and raise a claim to an Employment Tribunal.

Working during Maternity Leave 

An employee can agree to work for up to 10 days without affecting their maternity leave or pay, referred to as ‘keeping in touch days’. If working days exceed 10 days, people may lose their maternity pay entitlement. These days may occur anytime after the first 2 weeks after the birth of a baby. 

Shared Parental Leave

Shared leave means that a person chooses to share the Parental leave with their partner. This can be decided after the employee has started Maternity Leave, but providing an employer with as much notice as possible is recommended. 

A mother must still take the minimum of 2 weeks' maternity leave. 

How much shared parental leave or pay parents get will depend on how much maternity entitlement the birth parent has.

Eligible parents can take up to:

  • 50 weeks of shared parental leave
  • 37 weeks of shared parental pay

This may include:

  • The birth parent ends their Maternity Leave earlier and takes shared parental leave at a later date.
  • Both parents return to work at the same time and take shared parental leave at a later date.
  • The birth parent ends their Maternity Leave earlier and the partner takes shared parental leave.
  • Both parents take leave at the same time.
  • Both parents share parental leave and are off at different times.

Adoption Leave

A parent may be eligible for Statutory Adoption Leave Pay if they are adopting or fostering a child.

One of the parents is entitled to up to 52 weeks’ adoption leave. Only one of the parents can take adoption leave, the other will have to take their entitled parental leave, or shared parental leave. 

These rights only apply if a parent is a legal employee, and has been matched with a child through an adoption agency. There is no minimum amount of time an employee must have worked for an employer. 

Adoption pay

Statutory adoption pay lasts for 39 weeks and a parent can expect to receive:

  • 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax for the first 6 weeks
  • £172.48 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (depending on which is the lower amount) for the remaining 33 weeks

In order to be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay, employees must give between 7–28 days of notice, unless the time between being matched and placed with a child is less than that.

An employer may also offer a better adoption leave and pay scheme. It is important for employees to check their contracts or speak to their HR team directly. 

Leave for other types of employees

An employee must stop working for a minimum of 2 weeks, and 4 weeks if they work in a factory, after giving birth if they are a:

  • agency employee
  • freelancer
  • self-employed
  • on a zero-hours contract

In some cases, a person working with an agency may be entitled to Statutory Pay for their time off.

Unpaid Parental Leave

Parents have the right to unpaid time off work if/when they need to look after their children. This is also referred to as 'ordinary parental leave' or unpaid parental leave. This type of leave is in addition to the general parental leave and holiday entitlement. 

In order for a parent to be eligible, they must be legally classified as an employee, and have worked for the employer for 1 year or more. 

Eligible employees are entitled to 18 weeks leave for each of their children (until each child is 18 years old). An employee can only take 4 weeks maximum a year for each child, and must take it as a one week block.

The employee must provide at least 3 weeks' notice before the date they want to start a block of parental leave.

A person can contact the Acas helpline if they have any questions about parental leave, 

About Legislate

It is important to have legally sound employment contracts in place to protect both employers and employees. With Legislate, employers can easily tailor contracts to their needs for relevant clauses specific to leave and pay. If you are a startup founder or work for an organisation or company, book a demo or sign up today.

The opinions on this page are for general information purposes only and do not constitute legal advice on which you should rely.

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