Parental leave rights in the UK

Rights for employees in the UK who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy

Far too many people’s experience of becoming a parent is overshadowed by work-related worry, guilt, frustration, and fear. The good news is pregnant employees have legal rights.

Pregnant employees have four main legal rights: Statutory Maternity leave, Statutory Maternity Pay, Paid Time Off for antenatal care*, Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination, or dismissal.

*antenatal care is not just medical appointments — it can also include antenatal or parenting classes, if recommended by a doctor or midwife.

The even better news is that leading employers are going above and beyond these rights to support their workers. Meet these employers and explore the benefits and policies on their WORK180 employer pages.

Want to help your company create a parental policy that truly supports employees? Here are six expert tips from leading employers.

Time off and pay when having a baby: Statutory Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

What maternity leave are employees entitled to?

Maternity leave is designed to give employees the time they need to adjust to the birth or adoption of their new child, safe in the knowledge they will be able to return to work. 

This is a legal right for most carers of newborn or newly adopted children, and it includes 52 weeks of unpaid parental leave as well as a certain period of government-funded leave. This is called Statutory Maternity Leave and consists of ‘Ordinary’ and ‘Additional’ Maternity leave:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first 26 weeks)

Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) lasts for up to 26 weeks and allows you to return to your old job.

The government website states, that you don’t have to take the full 52 weeks. However, you must take two weeks’ leave after your baby is born (factory workers must take at least four weeks). 

  • Additional Maternity Leave 

Additional Maternity Leave (AML) starts immediately after Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), and can last for another 26 weeks. Unlike OML, if it isn’t practical for an employer, they don’t have to provide the employee with their previous job. 

However, according to the acas website, employers must offer an appropriate alternative role, with equal terms to the original positions. For example, the role must offer the same; 

  • pay;
  • benefits;
  • holiday entitlement;
  • level of seniority;
  • location.

Who is eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave? 

To be eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave (SML), a person must be an employee and also provide their employer with the correct amount of notice. This notice period is currently at least 15 weeks before the baby’s due date. 

Currently, this policy doesn’t include those individuals having a child through surrogacy. However, such employees may be eligible for Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay instead. 

What’s more, leading employers who want to nurture and, ultimately, retain their workforce are extending their policies to include surrogacy and adoption too. You can use the WORK180 platform to find these companies or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn to see who is updating and introducing progressive policies throughout the year. 

Can employees take leave for antenatal appointments?

Yes, employers must give pregnant employees time off for antenatal care and pay their normal rate for this time off. 

Pregnant employees will need to attend around ten medical appointments during their pregnancy, which will increase if a complication arises. While employees are entitled to take normal sick leave for these days, requesting and using this allowance can cause unnecessary stress and worry. 

While many best-practice employers offer flexible working to accommodate these vital appointments, pacesetting employers are going the extra mile and putting paid antenatal leave in place. 

How much is Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)?

Those eligible for SMP will receive it for 39 weeks: 

  • The first six weeks = 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings (before tax) 
  • For the next 33 weeks = either £151.97 or 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)

Note: National Insurance is deducted from this amount. 

Leading employers also offer additional paid parental leave to top up the government-funded pay. An increasing number of these organizations also recognize the importance of offering some form of fully paid leave to secondary carers. 

Don’t forget, that you can see exactly what parental leave, pay, and support leading employers offer using the WORK180 platform

How to determine whether someone is eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay 

SMP is available to those who meet each of the following criteria: 

  • Has an average weekly income of at least £120*
  • Has provided employers with at least 28 days’ notice that you’re pregnant 
  • Has worked for an employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the ‘qualifying week’. (The qualifying week is the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.)
  • Has provided proof of pregnancy in the form of either; 
    • A letter from the employee’s doctor or midwife 
    • A MATB1 certificate, which doctors or midwives will provide a pregnant individual at least 20 weeks before the due date

For more detailed information on Statutory Maternity leave and Statutory Maternity Pay, visit the government’s website

How to calculate the correct amount of Statutory Maternity Pay 

The government provides an easy-to-use tool that helps calculate the correct amount of Maternity Leave or Pay. 

Time off and pay when your partner is having a baby

What Paternity Leave are employees entitled to?

Employees whose partners are adopting a child or having a baby (either by giving birth or through a surrogacy arrangement) are entitled to time off. The government calls this Paternity Leave. 

Currently, employees can choose to take either one or two weeks’ leave. It’s important to note that this must be taken all at once. 

Can employees take leave to attend a pregnant person’s antenatal appointments?

Eligible employees are entitled to take unpaid leave to attend two antenatal appointments if; 

  • they’re the child’s father;
  • they’re the spouse, civil partner, or in a long-term relationship with the expectant mother;
  • they’re the intended parent of the baby/having the baby through a surrogacy arrangement.

Permanent employees can apply for this leave as soon as they start at a workplace. However, agency workers will need to have been working for an employer for 12 weeks first. 

Note: The length of this leave is six and a half hours per appointment. 

Who is eligible for Statutory Paternity Leave (SPL)?

Here’s a list of individuals eligible for SPL:

  • Father of the child 
  • Husband or partner of the mother or adopter (this includes same-sex partners)
  • The adopter of the child 
  • The intended parent/if the employee is having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement

Here’s the criteria an individual must meet to qualify for SPL:

  • Must be an employee 
  • Must give their employer the correct amount of notice, which is currently the correct amount correct notice, which is at least 15 weeks before the baby is due 
  • Must have been continuously employed by an employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the qualifying week* 

*the ‘qualifying week’ is the 15th week before the baby is due. Note that this is different for employees adopting.

How much is Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP)?

Currently, the weekly rate of SPP is either £151.97 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings. The amount will be whichever is the lowest. 

Note: Tax and National Insurance will be deducted from this amount. 

How to determine whether someone is eligible for Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP)

SPP is available to those who meet each of the following criteria: 

  • Has an average weekly income of at least £120*
  • Has been employed by their employer up to the date of birth
  • Has given their employer the correct amount of notice, which is at least 15 weeks before the baby is due 
  • Has been continuously employed by an employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the qualifying week* 

*the ‘qualifying week’ is the 15th week before the baby is due. Note: that this is different for employees adopting.

For more detailed information on Statutory Paternity Leave and Statutory Paternity Pay, visit the government website.

Leave and pay for employees adopting a child

What adoption and surrogacy leave are employees entitled to?

Like Statutory Maternity Leave (SML), employees who are having a child through adoption or surrogacy are entitled to 52 weeks off. This is broken down into Ordinary Adoption Leave and Additional Adoption Leave. 

  • 26 weeks of Ordinary Adoption Leave (OAL): OAL can start up to 14 days before the expected placement date. 
  • 26 weeks of Additional Adoption Leave (AAL): AAL starts immediately after AAL and can last for another 26 weeks. Unlike OAL, if it isn’t practical for an employer, they don’t have to provide the employee with their previous job. 

However, according to Maternity Action, employers must offer an appropriate alternative role, with equal terms to the original positions. For example, the role must offer similar; 

  • pay;
  • benefits;
  • holiday entitlement;
  • level of seniority;
  • Location.

Note: Adoption Leave is only available to one person in a couple. Instead, the other partner can arrange Paternity Leave. 

Can employees take time off work to attend adoption appointments?

Yes, the government’s website states that after being “matched” with a child, those eligible for Adoption Leave are also entitled to paid time off work for up to five adoption appointments. 

Who is eligible for Statutory Adoption Leave (SAL)?

SAL is available to those who meet each of the following criteria: 

What is Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP)? 

SAP is provided for up to 39 weeks:

  • The first six weeks = 90% of an employee’s average weekly earnings
  • The remaining period = £151.97 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)

Who is eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP)?

SAP is available to those who meet each of the following criteria: 

Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) for those adopting a child from overseas

Employees adopting from overseas are subject to the same requirements as those adopting within the UK. However, they must; 

  • have been continuously employed by their employer for at least 26 weeks when you start getting adoption pay;
  • confirm they’re not personally taking Statutory Paternity Leave or Pay (if adopting with a partner). This can be done by signing form SC6

Statutory Pay for those in a surrogacy arrangement

Employees within a surrogacy arrangement are subject to the same requirements as employees adopting within the UK. However, they must; 

  • have been continuously employed by their employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby’s due;
  • intend to apply for a parental order;
  • expect the order to be granted (for example because you do not have any convictions involving children, and the birth mother or father agrees to the arrangement)

Note: Employees that are genetically related to the child can also choose to get Paternity Leave and Pay instead (but cannot get both). Examples include employees who were the egg or sperm donor of the child. 

Eligibility exceptions for Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay 

It’s important to note that certain employees who are adopting a child don’t qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave or Statutory Adoption Pay:

  • Employees arranging a private adoption
  • Employees becoming a special guardian or kinship carer
  • Employees adopting a stepchild
  • Employees adopting a family member, such as a niece or nephew 

To find more detailed information on Statutory Adoption Leave and Statutory Adoption Pay, visit the government’s website.

Sharing parental time off and pay with a partner

How do Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) work?

Employees are entitled to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between themselves and their partners. This is called Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). It’s available to employees that fall into one of the following categories: 

  • An employee having a baby
  • An employee using a surrogate to have a baby
  • An employee adopting a child
  • An employee fostering a child who they’re planning to adopt

This leave and pay must be shared within the first year of the child being with the employee. However, employees can choose to take their SPL all in one go or divide their leave into blocks separated by periods of work. They can also choose to be off work at the same time or to stagger the leave and pay.

 

Eligibility for Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) 

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) are available to partners who meet a certain set of criteria, which differs for birth parents and for adoptive parents or parents using a surrogate. Each of these criteria requires; 

To find more detailed information on Shared Parental Leave and Pay, visit the government’s website

Shared caring responsibility

Creating a culture that promotes and supports equal and shared responsibility for parents and carers — regardless of gender — is critical to enabling women to thrive in the workplace.

From gender-neutral parental policies to return-to-work programs, employers can support their all-important workforce while removing damaging stereotypes. WORK180 amplifies the impact of such policies by displaying them on our transparent platform, ultimately showing women what a supportive workplace looks like.

Disclaimer:
The information on this page has been compiled on the basis of general information current at the time of publication. 
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