Advice on your rights as an employee if you are returning to work after ordinary or additional maternity leave.
Returning to work
You do not need to give notice of your return if you are going back to work at the end of maternity leave. You simply go to work on the day that you are due back:
- If you are entitled to OML you will be due back to work on the day after the end of the 26 week period.
- If you are entitled to AML you will be due back to work on the day after the end of the 52 week period.
If you want to return to work before
the end of your maternity leave, you must give your employer at least 8 weeks notice of the date you will be returning. If you do not give this notice and just turn up at work before the end of your maternity leave, your employer can send you away until the end of your leave.
Note: if you are entitled to AML but only wish to take OML you must give 8 weeks notice of your return as you are in fact returning early.
The law does not allow you to work for two weeks after childbirth and this period is known as Compulsory Maternity Leave. You will not be allowed to return to work during this time.
When you go back to work
When you go back to work after OML you have the right to return to exactly the same job. When you go back to work after AML you also have the right to return to exactly the same job, but if your employer can show that it is not reasonably practicable for you to return to the same job, for example, because the job no longer exists, you have the right to be offered a suitable alternative job on very similar terms and conditions.
Working for a small firm
If you work for a firm that employs five people or less, you still have the right to AML. As from the 1st April 2007 your employer is obliged to allow you to return into their employment after maternity leave.
Taking additional time off
You cannot stay off work after your maternity leave has ended as you will lose your right to return to work if you do not go back at the end of your OML or AML (if you are entitled to it).
- ask your employer if you can take annual leave immediately after your maternity leave. Note that paid holiday continues to accrue during maternity leave so you may have some holiday owing to you.
- ask your employer if they will agree to a further period off work. You should ask your employer to confirm this agreement in writing and to confirm that you will have the right to return to the same job.
- take some Parental Leave at the end of your maternity leave. Note that you must give 21 days notice to take parental leave and it is usually unpaid unless your employer offers paid parental leave.
- if you cannot return because you are ill you can take sick leave as long as you follow your employer's sickness procedures.
If your maternity leave ends soon and you are pregnant again you still have rights. Maternity leave does not break your continuity of employment, so your right to maternity leave for the new baby will be based on your total service with your employer. You may also qualify for SMP as long as you meet the normal conditions.
However, this will mean you will have to be receiving £77 per week or more from your employer in approximately weeks 18-26 of your pregnancy when SMP entitlement is calculated.
If you have already taken OML and AML (a year off) you will be entitled to a second period of OML and AML. However, if you go straight onto another period of OML without physically returning to work and decide to return to work after the second period of OML you will not have the right to return to exactly the same job as you normally would at the end of OML. However, you will have the same rights as you would have had at the end of AML, which is the right to return to the same job or if that is not reasonably practicable, a suitable alternative job on similar terms and conditions.
If you return to work after the end of your first period of AML and before the start of your second period of OML even if you only return for one day
your rights are not affected and you would have the right to return to exactly the same job after OML.
Not returning to work
If you do not want to go back to work you should resign in the normal way, giving the notice required by your contract or the notice period that is normally given in your workplace. If you do not have a contract or nothing has been said you should give a week's notice.
Note: You do NOT have to repay any of the SMP you received.
Changing you mind about returning to work
Many women find it impossible to know before the birth how they will feel afterwards, so it is always a good idea to say you are coming back in order to keep your options open. If you decide later not to return you can resign from your job in the normal way. Your notice period can run at the same time as your maternity leave.
Returning part time
You have the right to ask for part-time or flexible hours and your employer has a duty to seriously consider your request. Your employer must have a good business reason for refusing. You may be able to rely on sex discrimination law if your request is refused and you do not think your employer has a good business reason for the refusal.
Since April 2003 the right to request flexible work involves a clear procedure, which both you and your employer must follow. You should make a written application and your employer must then arrange a meeting with you to discuss it within 28 days, unless your request is agreed at the outset.