There are many different eligibility criteria and variables to consider when an employee wants to take maternity leave. Of course, every situation is different, so Peninsula offers 24/7 bespoke employers advice on maternity leave and pay via the employment law helpline – if you are affected, it is essential you seek professional advice to suit your situation. The helpline also provides specialist advice on leave for adoption, surrogacy and paternity.

However, some of the basic employer maternity leave obligations are outlined below to help employers understand how the process works.

The employer’s maternity leave obligations

Although some businesses provide their own company maternity leave and pay packages, you will only be legally obliged to provide statutory maternity leave and pay. The period of leave can last up to 52 weeks, while statutory maternity pay can last for up to 39 weeks. Peninsula’s HR software is ideal for monitoring how many weeks of leave an employee has taken. This can begin 11 weeks before the baby is due, or at any point up to the day after it is born – it’s the mother’s choice. You are also obliged to allow time off (on full pay) for the employee to attend the necessary antenatal appointments.

It’s important to avoid anything that could be considered pregnancy-related discrimination, e.g. making the employee redundant, treating them any less favourably, giving them unsuitable work or denying promotion. Something else to bear in mind is that the employer’s health and safety responsibilities will change when an expectant mother is working on the premises – how much depends on the nature of your workplace. Finally, you are obliged to permit flexible working options to facilitate the mother’s return to work.

What about the employee’s obligations?

In comparison, the employee has very few responsibilities; they must inform you in writing 15 weeks before their due date that they are pregnant and intend to use maternity leave. They need to provide medical evidence of the due date and specify when they will begin their leave and statutory maternity pay. It is also necessary to provide notice of at least eight weeks if they decide to return to work earlier than the end of their SMP, but the absolute minimum amount of maternity leave they can take is two weeks.