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If you haven’t already, now is a good time to get straight in your mind what you are entitled to in terms of parental leave.
How long do you get?
52 weeks leave which is divided into:
Ordinary Maternity Leave - the first 26 weeks
Additional Maternity Leave - the next 26 weeks
It used to be the case that you were only entitled to the full 52 weeks if you had worked for your employer for a certain time, but this is no longer true. It doesn't matter how big or small the company is, nor whether your employment is temporary or permanent.
You will be entitled to 52 weeks unless there is something unusual about your situation (such as that you normally work abroad) or you are a police officer or serve in the armed forces. And you do have to be an employee - so the self employed, for example, do not have the right to statutory maternity leave.
The reason that maternity leave is still divided into two separate periods is that the extent of your right to return to your old job depends upon how much leave you take. Broadly speaking, if you go back during the first 26 weeks you have the right to return to your old job. Whereas if you go back during the following 26 weeks, you have the right to return to your job unless it is not reasonably practicable for your employer to give it back to you, in which case they need to give you a job on equivalent terms and conditions.
What do you have to do to take maternity leave?
You need to inform your employer:
that you are pregnant
the week that you expect your baby to be born
the date on which you intend to start maternity leave.
This doesn't have to be in writing (although that is a good idea), but if your employer asks you for proof that you are pregnant then you have to provide it.
The notice has to be given at least 15 weeks before your baby is due, unless there is a very good reason why you are not able to. A very good reason would be something like not having known that you were pregnant, or having been seriously ill.
When can you start your leave?
Any time from 11 weeks before the week that your baby is due. If you've told your boss that you want to begin your maternity leave on a particular date, you can change your mind, but you have to give at least 28 days notice of the change.
What happens if your baby is born early?
If your baby is born early then your ordinary maternity leave starts automatically on the day after the birth. You should inform your employer as soon as possible after the birth.
If you are off sick in the last four weeks before your baby is due for a reason relating to pregnancy then you have to tell your employer that your absence is pregnancy-related. If this happens then your maternity leave starts immediately from the date of your absence, whether you want it to or not.
If you do not use up all of your maternity leave, your partner will be able to take 'additional paternity leave' and may be entitled to Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (if you go back to work prior to using up your SMP or SMA). This can be a way of ensuring you both get some time with the baby (and that your careers take a roughly equal hit).
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Discuss your plans for maternity leave
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