"We explain the rights that new and expecting parents have."

Maternity, Paternity & Adoption Rights

The rules around maternity and paternity are extensive, and can be clear in some respects and complex in others. There are many rules which protect new and expectant mothers, along with their partner. As a result, it is important that employees understand their rights in respect of ante-natal appointments, maternity/paternity pay and leave, holiday accrual and returning to work.

Maternity Pay
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) guarantees qualifying employees on maternity leave basic payment for up to 39 weeks. Not all pregnant employees will qualify for SMP, and much will depend on what employees earn and how long they have been working for with their employer. If they do not qualify for SMP, they will qualify for Maternity Allowance.

If an employee satisfies the qualifying criteria for SMP, they will be entitled to a maximum of 39 weeks' pay. The first 6 weeks is payable at 90% of their average weekly salary, and then the remainder is at the Statutory Maternity Pay rate, or at 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is the lesser.

Paternity Pay
In order to qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay, an employee must first give their employer 28 day's notice before the date on which they wish to start claiming the entitlement. They must also provide the employer with a signed declaration that they are taking the leave to care for the child or support the mother, that they expect to be responsible for the upbringing of the child, and that they are the biological father of the child, or be the mother’s husband or partner.

Maternity Leave 
All pregnant employees are now entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave regardless of their length of service with their employer, provided they have complied with the notification procedures. This period is normally divided into 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks additional maternity leave.

Paternity Leave
In order for an employee to qualify for paternity leave, they must have or expect to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing, be the biological father of the child or be the mother’s husband or partner, be taking the time off to care for the child or support the mother, and be continuously employed with the employer for 26 weeks prior to the 15th week (qualifying week) before the expected week of childbirth. The term 'partner' may cover a female partner in a same sex couple and can include male partners, whereby adoption leave may be taken. Paternity leave can be complex. Therefore, it is best to contact an expert employment solicitor for advice on your rights. 

Parental Leave
Under the provisions of the Employment Relations Act 1999 and the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations etc.1999, an employee may have the right to take time off work to care for a child or to make provision for that child’s welfare ('Parental Leave').

There is no statutory right for any eligible employee to receive pay for any period throughout which they are on parental leave, although pay can be agreed under the terms of the contract.

Throughout their period of maternity leave an employee has the right to continue to accrue annual leave. The way in which the time will accrue will depend upon the terms and conditions of employment and the date of which the employee’s baby was born, or was expected to be born. 

An employee cannot be on maternity leave and on annual leave at the same time. Normally an employee would arrange with their employer to take their annual leave either before or after the maternity period.

Antenatal Appointments
Any pregnant employee has the right to be paid time off to travel to and attend any antenatal care appointments which are recommended by a registered medical practitioner, health visitor or midwife. 

The father of the expected child, or the partner of a pregnant woman, may also have the right to take unpaid time off during working hours on two occasions to accompany a pregnant woman when she attends an appointment for ante-natal care.

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