How Long Is Maternity Leave In the UK (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 52 Weeks

In layman’s language, maternity can be defined as the period during a woman’s pregnancy and also the period shortly after the woman has given birth to her child. Maternity is said to cover about 26 weeks after childbirth.

Every woman has her right to maternity benefit which can be referred to as a payment that a woman employee receives when she has a baby. Maternity benefits like maternity leave i.e. full paid absence from work to take care of herself and her newborn child helps to maintain the health of women, and their children, which indirectly benefits their families, businesses, and societies as a whole.

The UK provides maternity leave to women who are going to be new mothers and their compensation is paid by the state government while they are on leave.

How Long Is Maternity Leave In the UK

How Long Is Maternity Leave In the UK?

TypesDuration
Total maternity leave52 weeks
Ordinary maternity leaveFirst 26 weeks
Additional maternity leave Last 26 weeks

Maternity leave to women is available to them no matter how long the employee has worked for their employer. The employee’s right to be paid is protected while the employee is on maternity leave.

The payment that is required to be availed by such employees is called Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). Firstly, to avail of such benefits, an employee needs to be eligible for SMP. In the UK, eligible employees are to be paid up to 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax for several weeks.

Eligible employees for such benefits can take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. These 52 weeks of maternity leave can be divided into two categories called ordinary and additional maternity leave. The initial 26 weeks of the leave is called ‘ordinary maternity leave’ while the last 26 weeks of the leave are known as ‘additional maternity leave.’

Generally, one cannot start their maternity leave too early than the expected time of childbirth. The earliest one can avail of their maternity leave before the expected week of childbirth is 11 weeks. However, this rule could be tweaked if the baby is born early for whatever reason.

Why Is Maternity Leave This Long In The UK?

All workers and employees are protected against any kind of discrimination, discrepancies, and any unfair treatment if one goes on maternity leave because of pregnancy or childbirth. The person who takes maternity leave does not lose any of their rights at work, irrespective of the fact whether the job was full-time or part-time.

Ordinary maternity leave, also called OML is short, are the first 26 weeks of maternity leave. After OML, the employee is entitled to return to the same job which the employee had before taking maternity leave. Also, it must be noted that the employee should give correct notice, in prescribed form and format to qualify and become eligible to take maternity leave.

However, if the employee joins the job after additional maternity leave i.e AML in short, the employee still possesses the right to return to the same job, but it depends on the discretion of the employer. If the employer thinks that it is not feasible for such an employee to return to the same job, he can offer an alternate suitable solution to this issue.

The employee is not explicitly required to inform the employer about how much maternity leave one must be taking. The employer should ideally assume that one would take a 52-week maternity leave. Once the notice of leave is submitted to the employer, he would intimate the employee the ending date of one’s maternity leave that would be 52 days later from the starting date.

Conclusion

Maternity leave can be defined as the period of absence of work granted to a mother before and after the birth of a child. Maternity leave is typically granted for 52 weeks comprising of an initial 26 weeks as OML and the later 26 weeks as AML. All women are entitled to take maternity leave from day one of their employment, irrespective of the fact how many hours or how many years an employee has worked for the employee.

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10995-011-0743-7
  2. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3030808

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