Working Hours – Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave & Parental Leave

Last Updated
July 20, 2010
  • All pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave. There is no employment qualification period for this right.
  • An employee must take a minimum of two weeks’ leave after the birth of her child. This minimum maternity period is extended to four weeks if the employee works in a factory.
  • An employee can choose to begin her statutory maternity leave any time from 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth up until the birth itself.

Qualifying for maternity pay

  • An employee must have had at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment with you (extending into the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth).
  • An employee must have average weekly earnings at or above the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions.
  • An employee must have provided you with confirmation of the pregnancy issued by her GP or midwife.
  • An employee must have given you 28 days’ notice of the date from which she wants to start her statutory maternity pay.

Paying maternity pay

  • Statutory maternity pay is paid for 39 weeks and usually covers the first 39 weeks of an employee’s maternity leave.
  • The standard rate of statutory maternity pay is reviewed by the Government every April.
  • You must pay the statutory maternity pay, but you can reclaim all or most of it from the government.

Maternity allowance

Women who do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay may be entitled to Maternity Allowance.
Maternity Allowance is paid by the Benefits Agency.

Paternity leave

  • Qualifying parents can take either one week or two consecutive weeks’ paid paternity leave.
  • Paternity leave must be completed within 56 days of the birth of the child or, if the child was born early, within the period from the actual date of birth up to 56 days after the first day of the week in which the birth was expected.

Qualifying for paternity leave

  • An employee who has or expects to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing.
  • An employee who is the biological father of the child or the mother’s husband or partner (including same-sex relationships).
  • An employee must have 26 weeks’ continuous service (extending into the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth).
  • An employee must have average weekly earnings at or above the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions.

Parental leave

  • Employees with young or disabled children are entitled to take periods of unpaid parental leave.

Qualifying for parental leave

  • An employee is entitled to 13 weeks’ unpaid parental leave in respect of each child if they meet the qualifying criteria.
  • An employee is entitled to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave if their child is entitled to receive disability living allowance.
  • An employee can take a maximum of four weeks’ leave in any year in respect of any individual child.
  • An employee must have at least one year’s continuous service.
  • An employee must have a child under the age of five or have a child who was adopted within the past five years and is under the age of 18.
  • An employee must be taking the leave to care for the child. This means looking after the welfare of a child and can include making arrangements for the good of a child.
  • The parent doesn’t have to be living with the child to qualify.

More information

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