During pregnancy | Preparing for Maternity leave

You must tell your employer when you want to start your maternity leave, by the 15th week before the baby is due (that is when you are about six months pregnant). You must tell your employer:

  • that you are pregnant, (if you have not already done this)
  • the week you expect to give birth (expected week of childbirth), and
  • when you intend your maternity leave to start, which cannot be before the beginning of the 11th week before the week you expect to give birth.

It is advisable, but not essential, to put it in writing so there is a record of having given the right information at the right time.

Yes, you must give your employer your MATB1 maternity certificate, which your midwife or GP will give you when you are about 20 weeks pregnant.

Your employer must tell you the date when your maternity leave will end. Initially this will be 52 weeks after you start your maternity leave. 52 weeks is the longest time you can take off but you can choose to return before then. If you are on maternity leave and make the decision to return to work before the end of 52 weeks you have to give eight weeks’ notice.

Yes, you can change the start date but you must tell your employer 28 days before you want your maternity leave to start. Your employer should then tell you when your maternity leave will end.

Your employer can ask you when you are going to start your maternity leave and it is always best to be as helpful as you can. If you do not know, explain why. But, you should not be repeatedly asked to give a date before the time you are obliged to provide one it is potentially discriminatory to do so. 

Your employer can ask you:

  • How you are feeling, as this may be necessary to consider health and safety or other adjustments, for example to the hours you work.
  • When you are likely to start your maternity leave and how long you are likely to take; but you should not be forced to make a firm decision before you are ready.
  • When you will take annual leave.
  • When to hold a performance review if this is due during maternity leave.

Your job should not be changed because you are pregnant, unless:

  • you agree to change in the work you are doing and your responsibilities
  • you cannot do part of your job for health and safety reasons, for example if your job involves heavy lifting. Your employer must remove the risk, offer you different and safe work or allow you to be on paid leave or
  • you need to hand over your duties and responsibilities before you start your maternity leave.

If changes in your job have arisen out of health and safety concerns or because of your pregnancy related illness, and they would not be permanent changes, then your 'real' role has not been made redundant. To make you redundant in that situation is likely to be pregnancy discrimination.

You do not need to say how long you will be off on maternity leave but it will help your employer if you do. If you say nothing, it will be assumed that you will take a full year (52 weeks). If you want to return earlier than one year you must tell your employer eight weeks before you want to return. See: https://www.gov.uk/maternity-pay-leave/leave

It is not your responsibility to organise cover for your maternity leave, but it would be advisable to discuss it. Provided your employer does not disadvantage you because of your absence, they can choose how best to cover your leave. 

Your employer is allowed to appoint someone on a permanent or temporary basis to cover your role. However, you are usually entitled to return to the same job after maternity leave (there are slightly different provisions for return after ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave). Similar provisions apply to adoption and shared parental leave.

You are usually entitled to return to the same job.  If you are not allowed to return to the same job because it has been taken by your maternity cover this is likely to be maternity discrimination. For redundancy situations, see Return to work.

Last updated: 14 Nov 2016