Tommy's PregnancyHub

Maternity and shared parental leave

Maternity or parental leave may be the first extended time you’ve had off work since you started your career. For many people, it’s a welcome opportunity to have a break from work and focus on something completely different.

The information on this page is for you if you’re carrying the baby and are an ‘employee’ of your organisation. To find out whether you are defined as an employee or another type of worker, the ACAS website can help you work out your employee status

Maternity or parental leave may be the first extended time you’ve had off work since you started your career. For many people, it’s a welcome opportunity to have a break from work and focus on something completely different. 

However, that can bring its challenges too. Some new parents struggle with the constant demands of a small baby and miss the stimulation, status and freedom that work brings. Both reactions are normal. If you do miss your work, this doesn’t make you any less of a loving parent and if you don’t, this doesn’t mean you’re any less dedicated as an employee.

Maternity leave 

Usually, the earliest you can start your maternity leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth (your due date). Maternity leave will also start:

  • the day after the birth if the baby is early
  • automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due.

Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks. It’s made up of:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first 26 weeks)
  • Additional Maternity Leave (the last 26 weeks).

If your employer agrees, you can take extra – unpaid – leave too, on top of your Statutory Maternity Leave.

After the first 26 weeks, you have the right to come back to your old job. If you take the full 52 weeks, you still have the right to return to your employer. But if your job no longer exists, your employer could offer you a similar one with either the same or better terms and conditions (such as pay, benefits, holiday entitlement, seniority of position and location).

Dads and partners are allowed to take either 1 or 2 weeks’ paid paternity leave. See more about this in the information about parental leave and shared parental leave below. 

Read more in our guidance for dads and partners. 

Maternity pay

Statutory Maternity Pay 

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly) and tax and national insurance will be deducted.

If you take the full 52 weeks' maternity leave, the last 13 weeks are unpaid unless your contract offers enhanced maternity pay.

Enhanced maternity pay

Some employers offer enhanced ('contractual') maternity pay that’s more than Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). For example, you might get 26 weeks of full pay followed by 13 weeks of SMP.

You should check your contract or talk to your employer to find out what you’re entitled to and whether you’d have to pay anything back if you don’t return to work or leave shortly after you return to work. 

Maternity Allowance

You can usually get Maternity Allowance if you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay.

You can find out more about Maternity Allowance and whether you’re eligible on the GOV.UK website.

Shared parental leave

You and your partner may be able to get Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if you’re having a baby or adopting a child. 

There are many reasons why you might want to share leave with your partner – for example, if they earn more than you, if you want to share the childcare equally or if you want to spend more time off together. 

Shared Parental Leave means that you can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between you. You need to share the pay and leave in the first year after your child is born or placed with your family. How much leave and pay you get depends on how much maternity or adoption leave your partner has taken.

During this leave, you can also use up to 20 paid Shared Parental Leave in Touch (SPLIT) days when you can keep up to date with your work or even work part time (see below).

You can use SPL to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work or take it all in one go. You can also choose to be off work together or to stagger the leave and pay.

The process of applying for shared parental leave can be complex and there are different eligibility criteria for birth parents and adoptive parents. You can read up-to-date information about shared parental leave on the GOV.UK website

Communication between you and your employer during your leave

While you are away from work, your line manager must contact you if:

  • there is opportunity for promotion or other job opportunities that you are eligible for and what you need to do if you want to apply
  • there is a possibility your role may become redundant 
  • there is a re-organisation of roles that would impact on your job.

If they don’t contact you about these things, it could be considered discrimination if you suffer from a disadvantage at work because you weren’t informed. 

Apart from these reasons, you can decide what level of contact you’d be happy with and let your manager know. For example:

  • Are you interested in news about staff leavers, new staff, training events and social activities?
  • Do you still want to receive employee news bulletins or newsletters?
  • Are you happy for your personal phone number to stay on team WhatsApp groups or would you prefer to leave for the duration of your maternity leave?
  • Would you be interested in an update on a project that you worked on that is launching while you are away?
  • Do you want your manager to be on the lookout for good KIT opportunities, for example a training day? If so, tell them when you might be happy to talk about this (for example in the second half of your maternity leave or when you have a child) and how you’d like to get them (for example through your personal email).

Most line managers will be cautious and won’t contact you unless you have been clear that you are happy to be contacted about specific things. So it’s a good idea to let them know that you want to hear about these things. Also, don’t be afraid to change your mind while you’re off. Some people make decisions and plans during their pregnancy and then it doesn’t work in reality once their baby arrives. 

It isn’t reasonable for your employer to make repeated and persistent contact to ask about work issues or to see when you are returning to work. You may need to be strict and specific with your employer if you find they are contacting you more than you’d like. But if you were unsure about your plans when you were leaving, they may get in touch to check whether you have decided when you’d like to return to work and to remind you about the notice you need to give.

Parental leave

As a parent, you and your partner are legally entitled to take up to 4 weeks’ parental leave each year – usually unpaid – to look after your child. Partners sometimes use this to extend their leave in the first year.

You can find out more about parental leave on the GOV.UK website. 

KIT and SPLIT days

If you and your employer agree, you can work up to 10 ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days during your maternity or parental leave. If you are taking shared parental leave (SPL) with your partner, you can both work up to 20 days. These are called ‘shared parental leave in touch’ or SPLIT days.

These are a great way to stay in touch with work and are designed to help you keep up to date while you’re away. Some people find them a helpful way of gradually adjusting to being back at work.

Working during your maternity or parental leave is optional and you don’t need to do it. Your employer should not pressurise you to work during your maternity or shared parental leave. 

You should be paid for these days without it affecting your other maternity or parental leave payment. Talk to your line manager about what you will do during these days, and what you are paid. This would usually be your normal rate so if you are looking for something different make sure you agree a rate before you start.

If your employer agrees, you could combine these with any annual leave you haven’t taken and work part time (for example, working 3 days instead of your usual 5) for a period when you return from leave.

Going back to work early

You can return to work early if you want to. But you shouldn’t feel any pressure from your employer to do so – for example because there is a situation at work that only you have the skills to manage. Your employer cannot imply that longer leave may affect your role or future prospects – and you don’t have to agree to it. If you want to change the date you plan to return, you need to give your employer 8 weeks’ notice.

Your employment terms and conditions

Your terms and conditions – such as your current pay, hours and benefits – have to stay at least at the same level as they were before you went on maternity leave. You will still build up annual leave while you’re away but you can’t take annual leave until you come off maternity leave. You’ll only get pension contributions for the period that your work is paying you. This means that if you have a period of unpaid leave, you won’t get pension payments during that time.

Redundancy

Your employer can only make your role redundant while you’re on maternity or shared parental leave if there is a clear business reason why (for example, if the shop where you work closes down). If that happens, they need to get in touch with you while you’re away. 

Making the most of your time

Many parents say their leave passes very quickly, so take the time to live in the moment and try to enjoy the break from the normal routine. 

Tips for enjoying your leave

  • Slow down.
    Spend time getting to know your baby and being with your other loved ones.
     
  • Go easy on yourself.
    Looking after a new baby is hard work. You don’t need to be perfect or compare yourself to other new parents. 
     
  • Get out and about.
    Go to playgroups and local library sessions for babies. As well as entertaining your baby and breaking up your day, you will find other local parents with similar-age babies. Friends you make at this time can sometimes become part of your support network when you’re back at work.
     
  • Work together.
    If you have a partner, talk to them about how you will divide tasks when you’re on leave. 
     
  • Take shortcuts.
    Whether it’s supermarket deliveries or a midweek takeaway, find ways to give yourselves a break.
  1. GOV.UK. Maternity pay and leave. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave Accessed: 14/06/21
  2. GOV.UK. Employee rights when on leave. https://www.gov.uk/employee-rights-when-on-leave Accessed: 8/1/21
    https://www.acas.org.uk/your-maternity-leave-pay-and-other-rights/returning-to-work-after-having-a-baby Accessed: 8/1/21
  3. Acas. Your maternity leave, pay and other rights. https://www.acas.org.uk/your-maternity-leave-pay-and-other-rights Accessed: 8/1/21
  4. GOV.UK. Maternity pay and leave. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave Accessed: 14/06/21
  5. Acas. Your maternity leave, pay and other rights. https://www.acas.org.uk/your-maternity-leave-pay-and-other-rights/working-out-maternity-pay Accessed: 14/06/21
  6. Acas. Shared Parental Leave and Pay. https://www.acas.org.uk/shared-parental-leave-and-pay/checking-eligibility-for-shared-parental-leave accessed: 10/01/21
  7. Equality and Human Rights Commission. https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/working-forward-preparing-for-fatherhood-conversation-guide-for-fathers.pdf - p8 accessed 10/01/21
  8. Acas. During maternity leave. Contact with employer during maternity leave and return to work. https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/managing-pregnancy-and-maternity-workplace/faqs-employees/during-maternity-leave-contact-employer Accessed: 14/06/21
  9. Acas. Parental leave. https://www.acas.org.uk/parental-leave Accessed: 10/01/21
  10. GOV.UK. Unpaid parental leave. https://www.gov.uk/parental-leave/entitlement Accessed: 14/06/21
  11. GOV.UK. Employee rights when on leave. https://www.gov.uk/employee-rights-when-on-leave Accessed: 15/01/21
  12. Equality and Human Rights Commission. During maternity leave. Contact with employer during maternity leave and return to work. https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/managing-pregnancy-and-maternity-workplace/faqs-employees/during-maternity-leave-contact-employer Accessed: 15/01/21
Review dates

Last reviewed: 14 June 2021
Next review: 14 June 2024