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Maternity and Paternity Rights FAQ

September 2019

We know from listening to our members that they have an increasing number of questions about maternity and paternity rights. This FAQ is designed to support reps to answer some of the questions they might be asked by pregnant women, their partners or new parents.


Do I get paid time off for antenatal appointments?
You have the right to take reasonable paid time off work to attend antenatal appointments. All pregnant women have this right, no matter how many hours you work or however recently you started your job.

Does my partner have the right to attend antenatal appointments?
Fathers and partners of pregnant women also have the right to unpaid time off work to attend up to two antenatal appointments – the maximum time allowed is 6.5 hours.

Am I entitled to a risk assessment?
When you become pregnant or are breastfeeding, you must tell your employer so that they can carry out a risk assessment.

What happens if the risk assessment identifies a risk to me or my baby?
 
  • Your employer must do all that they can to eliminate the risk or reduce it to a safe level.
  • If it is reasonable and if it avoids the risk, you have the right to have your working conditions or hours of work temporarily altered.
  • If this is not possible, then your employer must offer you suitable alternative work. The work must be on terms and conditions which are no less favourable than your normal conditions of employment.
  • If your employer is unable to offer you suitable alternative work, then you have the right to be suspended on full pay for as long as is necessary to avoid the risk.
Am I entitled to maternity leave?
All women, regardless of their length of service, are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave – the first 26 weeks of leave is known as Ordinary Maternity Leave and the second 26 weeks leave is known as Additional Maternity Leave.

Do I qualify for statutory maternity pay?
To qualify you have to meet all of the following criteria:
 
  • You must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the Qualifying Week (the 15th week before the baby is due).
  • You need to be employed in your Qualifying Week – even if it is only for one day that week.
  • Have average earnings of at least £118 before tax per week in the eight weeks (if paid weekly) or two months (if paid monthly) before the end of the Qualifying Week.
Working out whether someone qualifies for statutory maternity pay can be complicated. Reps can find a calculation guide in Usdaw’s Maternity and Parental Rights booklet.

How much statutory maternity pay do I get?
Only 39 weeks of the 52-week maternity leave period is paid. Statutory maternity pay is paid for six weeks at a rate of 90 per cent of your average earnings, followed by 33 weeks at a flat rate of £148.68 per week (or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings for the full 39 weeks if this is less than £148.68 per week).

What if I don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay?
If you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay you may be entitled to a benefit called maternity allowance.

What happens if I get ill in the last four weeks of pregnancy?
If you have a pregnancy-related illness in the last four weeks of your pregnancy, your employer can start your statutory maternity pay and maternity leave even if you had planned to leave work later. If your illness is not pregnancy-related you can claim sick pay and start your statutory maternity pay when you had planned.

How much notice do I need to give to return to work?
Employers will assume you are taking the full 52 weeks entitlement. If you want to return before the end of your 52 weeks entitlement, you must give eight weeks’ notice of the date you wish to return.

Do I have to repay my statutory maternity pay if I don’t return to work?
You do not have to repay your statutory maternity pay if you don’t return work. However, if your employer has topped up your statutory maternity pay with contractual pay then you would only have to pay this back if this was specifically outlined in your contract. In these circumstances you would only have to repay the contractual part that is paid on top of statutory maternity pay.

Do I have the right to go back to the same job after my maternity leave?
 
  • If you are going back to work within the period of Ordinary Maternity Leave ie within 26 weeks of starting your leave, then you have the right to return to exactly the same job as before.
  • If you are going back to work during or after Additional Maternity Leave ie between 26-52 weeks, then you have a right to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions. However, if it is not ‘reasonably practicable’ for your employer to give that job back to you, then you have the right to return to a suitable alternative job that is not substantially less favourable to you. If your employer says you can’t have your old job back, get in touch with your union rep, area organiser or the union’s legal department as soon as possible for advice.
Paternity Leave

Am I entitled to paternity leave?
Paternity leave is available to fathers and partners (including same sex partners). You will need to satisfy the
following conditions in order to qualify for paternity leave:
 
  • Have or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing.
  • Be either the biological father of the child or the mother’s husband, partner or civil partner.
  • Have worked continuously for your employer for 26 weeks leading into the 15th week before the baby is due.
How long is paternity leave?
Paternity leave is two weeks. You can choose to take either one week or two consecutive weeks paternity leave (not odd days).

When can I take paternity leave?
Paternity leave must be taken within 56 days of the child’s birth.

Do I qualify for statutory paternity pay?
 
  • You have to have worked for your employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due.
  • You have to have average weekly earnings of more than £118 per week (before tax) in the eight weeks (if paid weekly) or two months (if paid monthly) before the 15th week before your baby is due.
How much statutory paternity pay do I get?
The rate of statutory paternity pay is £148.68 per week or 90 per cent of average weekly earnings if this is less than £148.68.

How much notice do I need to give for paternity leave?
You need to tell your employer of your intention to take paternity leave by the 15th week before the baby is due.

How much notice do I need to give for statutory paternity pay?
You must give your employer at least 28 days’ notice of the date you want your statutory paternity pay to start. If you can’t do this then give as much notice as possible.

Shared Parental Leave

What is shared parental leave?
Shared parental leave opens up maternity leave to both parents so that they can decide between them how to spend their leave in the first year of the child’s birth.

How does it work?
A woman must still take two weeks maternity leave immediately following the birth. The remaining 50 weeks can be converted into shared parental leave and pay.

Am I entitled to shared parental leave?
Both partners must meet eligibility criteria.
 
  • As a rule, mothers and primary care givers who qualify for statutory maternity pay or statutory adoption pay will qualify for shared parental leave.
  • As a rule, fathers, partners or secondary carers who qualify for statutory paternity pay will qualify for shared parental leave.
How much shared parental leave will I get?
The amount of shared parental leave available is essentially the amount left over from any maternity leave the mother takes. For example, if the mother takes three months maternity leave and then opts into shared parental leave with her partner. This would leave them with a total of nine months. In total only nine months of leave are paid.

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