During maternity leave | Pay, Promotion, Breaks and Benefits

An employer must pay SMP to all employees who qualify. To qualify you will need to have been employed for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the week in which your baby is due and earn a minimum amount. See: https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/overview.

You are entitled to SMP for 39 weeks. The first six weeks are paid at 90% of your salary. The remaining period is paid at a flat rate, which as at February 2015 is £138.18. The amount is increased each year. https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/overview

Yes. All employers can reclaim SMP. Small employers can recover 103% of the amount paid. Small employers are those whose National Insurance contributions are not more than £45,000 per annum.  Some employers are not aware they can recover SMP so it is best to make sure they know.  See also: GOV.UK

No. Once you have become entitled to SMP, you must be paid for the full 39 week period. It would be unlawful for your employer to stop paying SMP because you were dismissed or resigned. 

Your employer must still pay you SMP for the full 39 weeks even if you are not going to return to work. You cannot be asked to repay it. 

For circumstances that affect payment, including where you work for another employer or get a pay rise, see: https://www.gov.uk/statutory-maternity-pay-employee-circumstances-that-affect-payment#employee-isnt-returning-to-work.

You should check your contract and ask your employer or Human Resources team what you are entitled to. There may be a condition that you have to pay back any contractual pay over and above SMP if you do not return to work or stay for a minimum period after coming back from maternity leave. Your employer may not be able to rely on the contract to claim repayment if they have broken the contract themselves, for example by discriminating against you. 

Only if your contract says you should pay it back if you are made redundant.

Many employers do not enforce repayment of contractual maternity pay where the employee is made redundant but that is a matter for negotiation.

Yes, unless you are dismissed, resign or a fixed term contract comes to an end without being renewed, in which case you will no longer be employed.

Any period of maternity leave must be treated as though you were working for the purpose of calculating your length of service for any service related benefits, redundancy payments or for claiming unfair dismissal.

Yes. Benefits and obligations under the contract continue during maternity leave, except for normal pay and benefits provided exclusively for business use (for example a company car). Examples include:

  • Pension contributions during the paid period. The employer contributions are based on normal pay, but  yours are based on  maternity pay.
  • Participation in share ownership scheme.
  • Membership of health club.
  • Reimbursement of professional subscriptions.
  • Health and life insurance.
  • Use of company car, unless it is for business use only.
  • Use of mobile phone, laptop unless it is for business use only.
  • The benefit of a pay rise. 

You and your employer are bound by your contract of employment. This means that all policies and procedures apply as they would if you were not on maternity leave, unless your employer needs to make special provision to remove any disadvantage because of your maternity leave. For example, you should not have to attend a disciplinary meeting or interview soon after giving birth. 

Yes. You must be given the same pay rise as any other employee. The pay rise should be reflected in your earnings related statutory maternity pay (which is 90% of your pay for the first six weeks of your maternity leave) and any contractual maternity pay. Failure to do so may be maternity discrimination.

For example: you are receiving contractual maternity pay, based on your salary and, at an annual pay review, staff are awarded a two per cent pay rise. Failure to include this in your contractual maternity pay would be unlawful discrimination. Your contractual maternity pay must be recalculated so it is based on your salary plus the two per cent increase.

This is usually correct except for the compulsory leave period and unless your contract says you should receive a bonus.

The general rule is that you must be paid the same bonus as any other employee for the period before you go on maternity leave, and during the compulsory leave period. But you are not entitled to a bonus for the remaining period of your maternity leave. 

There may be some exceptions, for example if a discretionary loyalty bonus is paid to all employees irrespective of whether they have been at work for the whole year. Because the legal position is not clear and will depend on the facts of your case you should seek legal advice about your entitlement.


Yes, for at least the paid part of maternity leave. Your contributions are based on your actual income, whether it is statutory or contractual maternity pay. The employer’s contributions are based on the pay you would have received if you were not on maternity leave.

It is advisable to check the terms of your pension as some schemes allow you to take a payment holiday from your contributions for the duration of your maternity leave. 

It is not certain whether entitlement to childcare vouchers continues during maternity leave in addition to statutory maternity pay. It is arguable that as they cannot be converted into cash, they should be maintained like any other non-cash contractual benefit. 

No. You are not entitled to statutory sick pay or any sick pay under your contract during maternity leave. Once you have returned to work you are entitled to sick pay in the same way as any other employee.

Unless you agree, your training must not be cancelled because you are on maternity leave. This may be maternity discrimination. You may want to agree to postpone the course, for example, if the training will be out of date by the time you return from maternity leave, or you might want to use ‘keeping in touch’ days to attend training. It is best to discuss the options with your employer. 

You should be given the opportunity to attend training during maternity leave particularly if failure to do so would affect your career or pay. If you are excluded from a training course because you are on maternity leave, this is likely to be maternity discrimination if you are disadvantaged as a result, for example by not being considered for a pay rise or promotion. 

Alternatively, you could agree to do the training at another time. It is best to discuss this with your employer.

However if you do not want to attend training you do not have to. You could try and arrange for the training to occur soon after your return to work.

It depends whether you will be disadvantaged because of missing a performance review, for example, if a pay rise or promotion is dependent on your performance review. You could ask for your review to take place either before or during your maternity leave. You could use a Keeping in Touch day to attend work for a performance review. If you are disadvantaged because you didn't have a review this may be maternity discrimination

Yes. There is no reason why you should not apply for promotion when you are on maternity leave. If you are discouraged from applying for promotion, or refused promotion, because you are on maternity leave, this would be maternity discrimination. Your employer must not take into account your maternity leave when making a decision about whether to recruit or promote you.

You must not be refused promotion because of being on maternity leave. If your employer decides not to promote you because you are on maternity leave, that would be maternity discrimination. Talk to your manager about your promotion.   

If you were not told about the promotion opportunity and would have applied if you had not been on leave, this may be maternity discrimination. You should have been told and given the opportunity to apply for the job. 

You will need to find out whether you will return to exactly the same job or not.  If some of your responsibilities have been removed because you have taken maternity leave this would be maternity discrimination

Last updated: 20 Feb 2017