Maternity, paternity and adoption rights

Maternity rightsMaternity, paternity and adoption rights for babies due on or after 1 April 2007 are discussed below in a question and answer format. At the end of this article you will find further information about the rights of new parents, both on our site and on other sites.

How much maternity leave are women entitled to?

  • Pregnant employees are entitled to take 52 weeks’ maternity leave (26 weeks’ Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and 26 weeks’ Additional Maternity Leave (AML)), regardless of how long they have worked for their employer. 

How much maternity pay are women entitled to?

  • Where a woman has completed 26 weeks’ continuous service with her employer at the 15th week before the week her baby is due, she will be entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) for 39 weeks.  The government intends to extend the period to 52 weeks by the end of the next parliament.
  • During the first six weeks of the OML period, SMP is paid at 90% of her average weekly earnings. For the remaining weeks, SMP is paid at the lower SMP rate applicable at the time – see current regulations.

How much notice must a woman give of her maternity leave?

  • By the 15th week before the week the baby is due a woman must notify her employer of her pregnancy, her expected week of childbirth and the date she intends to begin maternity leave (unless this is not reasonably practicable).
  • If requested to do so by her employer she must give notice in writing of the date that she intends to begin her leave. This is known as the “notified leave date”. That date may be no earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth.
  • She must give at least 28 days’ notice of any change to her start date, or as soon thereafter as is reasonably practicable.
  • Once a woman has given notice of her need for maternity leave, the employer must respond within 28 days, setting out her rights, her expected date of return, and notifying her that it is her responsibility to report any changes in her situation to her employer.
  • The employee must give 8 weeks’ notice to her employer of her intended return to work date, if it is different from her original expected date of return.

How much paternity leave and pay are partners entitled to?

  • Paternity leave will be available to the biological father of the child, or the mother’s husband or partner, where the employee has or expects to have responsibility for the child’s upbringing.
  • Providing that an employee has at least 26 weeks’ service prior to the 15th week before the week the baby is due, an employee would be entitled to two weeks’ paid paternity leave.
  • Paternity leave must be taken for either one week or two consecutive weeks (not odd days).
  • Paternity leave will be paid at the same rate as the lower rate of SMP.
  • A new right for employed fathers or partners of a mother or adopter to be absent for a period of up to 26 weeks is likely to be introduced by the end of the next Parliament. 

Latest news on maternity, paternity and adoption

How much notice must a partner give if they intend to take paternity leave?

  • Employees planning to take paternity leave must notify their employers in the 15th week before the week the baby is due, unless this is not reasonably practicable. Employees should complete a self-certificate, to be made available by employers, setting out the date the baby is due and whether they wish to take paternity leave.
  • Paternity leave can start on any date after the child’s birth provided that it is completed within 56 days of the child’s birth.

How much adoption leave and pay are employees entitled to?

  • Providing an employee has 26 weeks’ service before the date on which they are matched with a child, they will be entitled to adoption leave and adoption pay.
  • Employees will be entitled to 26 weeks’ ordinary adoption leave and 26 weeks’ additional adoption leave, making one year in total, on similar terms to maternity leave.
  • Statutory adoption pay has been extended to 39 weeks’ pay at the same rate as SMP with the intention that this will increase in line with the maternity pay provisions to 52 weeks’ pay by the end of the next Parliament. 

What other rules apply to adoption leave?

  • Where couples adopt jointly, they can choose which of them takes the adoption leave
  • The partner of someone who takes adoption leave may be entitled to paternity leave, providing they have at least 26 weeks’ service.
  • Adoption leave will be available to those adopting children up to 18 years of age, as long as the child is newly placed for adoption.
  • Adoption leave applies to those adopting children overseas as well as in the UK.

What notice periods are needed to take adoption leave?

  • Employees must give their employer notice no more than seven days after they are notified of having been matched with the child, that they intend to take adoption leave. To qualify for adoption pay, an employee must give their employer at least 28 days’ notice of the start of adoption leave (unless this is not reasonably practicable).
  • Adoptive parents will be protected from suffering a detriment or unfair dismissal for reasons connected with taking or seeking to take adoption leave or the benefits of adoption leave. The protection will begin when parents are approved for adoption.

Other changes to maternity, paternity and adoption legislation

  • The government has also introduced “keeping in touch days”, whereby an employee taking maternity or adoption leave can work for up to 10 days during the statutory leave period, without losing statutory pay for that week or bringing his or her leave to an end.
  • The government also intends to introduce keeping in touch days for fathers who take up additional paternity leave when that is introduced.
  • As part of the move towards better communication during maternity and adoption leave, reasonable contact is now permitted during the statutory leave period. Either party is permitted to make contact from time to time without the leave period being brought to an end. The government intends to release guidance about what is meant by “reasonable contact” soon.

Dickinson Dees LLP

Maternity, paternity and adoption rights: resources


Maternity, paternity and adoption rights:
External resources

Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (formerly the DTI)

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas)

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)

Parental leave on Wikipedia

Map: Parenthood policies across Europe

Employment legislation relating to maternity, paternity and adoption

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