Advice on the changes to your maternity rights, with information on maternity leave, maternity pay and returning to work.
On the 1st April, 2007 the Work and Families Act 2006 came into force. This legislation was designed with the aim of providing working parents with more support. The changes aim to make it possible for more parents to stay at home and look after their babies, at least for the first year of their life. The Act will be introduced in stages and further beneficial changes are planned for 2010.
If your baby's estimated due date (EDD) fell on or after 1st April 2007 you will now be entitled to the following;
- Up to 52 weeks maternity leave, regardless of the length of time you have spent with your current employer and whether you are currently working full or part time hours. This will be split into 26 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave (SML) and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML); different rights apply during each.
- SMP (statutory maternity pay) is now payable for up to 39 weeks (an increase of 13 weeks); 26 weeks of which are SML and 13 are AML. The first 6 weeks will be paid at 90% of your average weekly earnings. You will then receive £117.18 per week (or 90% of your earnings if it less than this) for the remaining 33 weeks. This amount has increased from £108.85 per week.
- You are now entitled to return to work for up to 10 days during your maternity leave without forfeiting your right to SMP. Whilst these days are primarily designed for 'keeping in touch' with your employers so that you are able to attend relevant meetings or training that fall during your leave, they can be used however you and your employer see fit. You may wish to use them to ease yourself back into work again slowly. You are able to take these days at any time during your maternity leave apart from in the first 2 weeks after the birth of your baby as these are covered by CML (compulsory maternity leave). CML extends to 4 weeks if you work in a factory environment.
- If you decide to alter the conditions relating to your return to work you will now be required to notify your employer at least 8 weeks in advance of your return. However, you are now entitled to return to work after your OML or AML regardless of the size of your employer. This means that even if you work for a small company your employer is obliged to provide you with a job.
- There has also been a change in SPP (statutory paternity pay) which has increased from up to £112.75 per eligible week to up to £117.18 per week.
The above changes are certainly a step in the right direction and will provide you with more support whether you decide to stay at home with your baby or return to work. However, your rights as a parent are set to improve further as before 2010 paid maternity leave is expected to be extended to 52 weeks, and APL (additional paternity leave) and ASPL (additional supplementary paternity leave - to be taken in the second 6 months after birth) are also going to be introduced.
For more information on your maternity rights and the changes in legislation visit www.direct.gov.uk