Know your maternity rights
Finding out you’re pregnant can be an exciting and somewhat terrifying time. There’s the thrill at knowing you are going to become a parent, but also the worry about how everything will go, the unknown and also how much it’s going to impact on your current life.
The simple truth is that no matter how much you try to prepare for motherhood, you’re never going to be prepared enough. Even women who have had three, four, five or more children will say every pregnancy, labour and child is different – and they discover something new every time around.
However, that doesn’t mean to say you can’t prepare for anything. While there will always be some things that are unknown, and unknowable until they happen – there are some things that are laid down in law. One of those things is your statutory maternity rights.
#1 Time off
Even if you are having the most straight forward and uncomplicated of pregnancy’s, you are still going to be required to attend various medical appointments. For a first pregnancy you will, at bare minimum be invited to:
- A booking appointment with your midwife (8-12 weeks)
- Dating scan (12-14 weeks)
- Midwife appointment (16 weeks)
- Anomaly scan (18-20 weeks)
- Midwife appointment (25 weeks)
- Midwife appointment (28 weeks)
- Midwife appointment (31 weeks)
- Midwife appointment (34 weeks)
- Midwife appointment (36 weeks)
- Midwife appointment (38 weeks)
- Midwife appointment (40 weeks)
Depending on the hours you work, there is every chance you will need to take time off to be able to attend these appointments, as they are unlikely to be available in out of office hours. This means your employer will need to provide you with the relevant time off work, which will be paid at the normal rate for time off.
Your partner will also be entitled to time off; however, this is usually unpaid and will only be for two appointments (usually both scans, though this is at the discretion of the couple).
You will also be able to attend any parenting classes that your GP, consultant or Midwife believes may be beneficial for you.
# 2 Maternity leave
It doesn’t matter what you do, how much you get paid, whether you’re full time/part time or how long you have been with your employer, all women are entitled to take up to one year off for maternity leave. To ensure your full maternity rights are protected you must advise your employer of your pregnancy within 15 weeks of your EDD (i.e. no later than 25 weeks).
You don’t have to take the full 52 weeks off you do not wish to; however, there are some stipulations you should be aware of:
- You must take a minimum of two weeks off
- Maternity leave cannot stand until 11 weeks before your EDD (i.e. until you are 29 weeks)
- If you are absent from work as a result of a pregnancy related illness and/or complication at any point after 36 weeks statutory maternity pay will automatically kick in, instead of statutory sick pay
#3 Maternity pay
Maternity pay is slightly more complicated than maternity leave. Generally speaking, if you have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks continuously by the 15th week before your baby is due (i.e. you started work at least 1 week prior to conceiving) you should be entitled to SMP.
SMP is paid for 39 weeks and the amount you receive will vary person to person as it is based on how much you earn during the qualified period.
It is important to make sure you are fully aware of your rights, so speak to your manager, HR Department, or contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau if you have any concerns.