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Maternity & Paternity Rights UK

As an employer, you will have a wide range of legal obligations towards your employees. Among these will include allowing employees to exercise their parental rights at work. Getting expert advice on maternity and paternity rights in the UK can help you to meet your legal obligations and treat your team fairly.

Neglecting your maternity leave responsibilities could have serious consequences for your business, so it is essential that you have the support and assistance of experienced employment law solicitors on your side.

At Glanvilles, our employment law solicitors have specific expertise in guiding employers through maternity leave matters, including providing general advice on UK maternity laws and resolving maternity disputes.

We have particular skills and experience in utilising alternative dispute resolution to resolve any employment disputes, including those related to maternity, before they proceed to employment tribunal proceedings. However, where a claim has been started, we have the necessary experience to find a resolution in the most cost-effective manner and as amicably as possible.

Get in touch with our maternity solicitors in Chichester, Fareham, Havant and Petworth

Looking for expert legal help with paternity or maternity rights in the UK for your business?

You can contact our expert maternity lawyers in Chichester, Fareham, Havant or Petworth or fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you quickly.

How our maternity and paternity rights solicitors can help

Our services include:

  • General maternity law advice
  • Maternity disputes
  • Maternity pay for agency workers
  • Maternity pay after 39 weeks

Our team will take the time to gain a detailed understanding of your case and the resolution you wish to achieve. From here, we can act proactively to provide pragmatic advice and ensure that the right framework is put in place to help to handle maternity right leave matters.

Our maternity law expertise

Maternity law advice

UK maternity rules can be complex and difficult to correctly navigate. However, given how serious the consequences can be for failing to uphold your obligations as an employer, it is vital that you seek out specialist maternity law advice wherever necessary.

Our maternity rights solicitors can provide bespoke employment law advice in relation to maternity, including your employees’ employment rights, maternity leave, maternity pay, role changes after maternity, and what actions could amount to maternity discrimination.

Maternity disputes

Where an employee believes that their maternity rights have not been upheld, or they are the victim of maternity discrimination, your business may find itself involved in a dispute. Without prompt advice, these disputes could be incredibly disruptive and result in long-term consequences for your business.

When instructed, our team can carefully review your situation and advise on the best approach for resolving the maternity dispute. We have notable skills in using alternative dispute resolution to help reach an out-of-court resolution, finding a solution that is in the best interests of all parties.

However, if this is not possible, and employment tribunal proceedings are launched, we can also provide robust representation and will guide you through the process in the most cost-effective manner.

What maternity rights do employees have?

In the UK, there are very strict guidelines with regards to the maternity rights that employees will have.

Currently, employees will have a Statutory Maternity Leave period of 52 weeks. This is made up of Ordinary Maternity Leave for the first 26 weeks and Additional Maternity Leave for the second 26 weeks.

An employee does not have to take the full 52-week period off, but they must take 2 weeks’ leave after the baby is born (4 weeks when an employee works in a factory).

The earliest an employee can start their maternity leave is usually 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Leave will also start the day after the birth of the baby (if early), or automatically if an employee is off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before the week the baby is due.

With regards to maternity pay, an employee will be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks. With SMP, an employee will receive:

  • 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax for six weeks
  • £184.03 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks (rates correct for 2024-2025 tax year)

SMP will typically start when an employee takes maternity leave.

To qualify, an employee must earn, on average, at least £123 a week, provide the correct notice and proof of pregnancy and have worked for your business for at least 26 weeks continuing into the ‘qualifying week’.

We can advise on all aspects of maternity leave rights and maternity pay issues, giving you confidence that you are acting correctly towards your employees.

What are employees’ paternity rights in the UK?

Fathers in England and Wales have the right to statutory parental leave when their child is born. The rules around paternity rights are changing from 6 April 2024 to give fathers more flexibility about how they take this leave.

Under the old rules, fathers were allowed to take either one or two weeks of paternity leave which had to be taken all in one block i.e. they could not take a week when the baby was born and then another week at a later date.

However, under the new rules, fathers do have the right to split their paternity leave. They can still choose to take either one or two weeks, but if they choose two weeks, this can either be all in a single block or they can take a week off, go back to work for a bit, then take another week off.

To be able to take their paternity leave under the new rules, fathers must tell their employer that they are having a baby, they intend to take paternity leave and the week when the child is expected to be born. They must do this before the end of the ‘qualifying week’ which is 15 weeks before the baby is due, with the end of the week being Saturday.

The father must then notify their employer of the dates on which they intend to take parental leave at least 28 days before any leave period begins.

If you have any questions about paternity leave rights, then our team will be happy to advise you.

What is maternity discrimination?

An employee may see fit to bring forward a claim of pregnancy or maternity discrimination if they believe that they have been unfavourably treated because of their pregnancy or maternity.

The Equality Act 2010 outlines that an employer must not discriminate against anyone they employ, or are considering employing, because of:

  • Their pregnancy
  • An illness related to their pregnancy, including related time off
  • Maternity pay or leave they take, or plan to take

Actions that could be described as maternity discrimination could include:

  • Dismissal
  • Changing an employees’ pay
  • Demoting an employee
  • Forcing an employee to work during maternity leave

Someone could bring forward maternity discrimination up until the point their maternity leave ends, they return to work, or they leave their job.

How can I protect my employees from maternity or paternity discrimination?

What might be considered maternity or paternity discrimination is not always obvious, so it is sensible for employers to be cautious about the risks. Having clear policies and good training for your whole team can help to reduce the risk of discrimination, but it is also sensible to have access to good legal advice when needed.

We always recommend a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to paternity and maternity discrimination concerns. If you are unsure whether a certain action, inaction, policy or other issues might constitute discrimination, please speak to us as soon as possible. We can then advise you on the steps to take to avoid accusations of discrimination or to swiftly and amicably resolve any unintentional discrimination that may have occurred.

Who pays Statutory Maternity Pay?

As an employer, you will be responsible for paying Statutory Maternity Pay to employees who are on maternity leave.

Do you have to provide maternity pay after 39 weeks?

You do not have to provide maternity pay after the 39-week window for Statutory Maternity Pay. If someone takes the full 52 weeks’ maternity leave, you will not be obligated to pay them beyond the 39-week mark, unless an employees’ contract offers Enhanced Maternity Pay.

 Enhanced maternity pay must not be less than Standard Maternity Pay.

How does maternity pay and leave work for agency workers?

Unlike standard employees, agency workers are not entitled to the same rights to return to work. Agency workers are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave, and a separate agreement will need to be made – either with the agency, or your business (as the hirer).

Agency workers are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay, but this is paid by the agency rather than the hirer. If you are unsure about how this applies to an employee, we can provide clear advice on pay and maternity rights in the UK.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

An employee and their partner may apply for Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay. With this, they will share the first 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them, meaning an employee may return to work sooner than they would if they took Statutory Maternity Leave.

How does Shared Parental Leave work?

As covered above, shared Parental Leave can allow parents to split their parental leave between them. The leave and pay must be shared in the first year after the child is born and it can be taken all in one block or split up throughout the year.

Can someone be made redundant during maternity or paternity leave?

Yes, it is possible to make someone redundant when they are on parental leave if there is a genuine redundancy situation. What you cannot do is select a pregnant person or a parent for redundancy on the basis of their being pregnant or a parent.

If a woman is made redundant while on maternity leave, then she must be offered suitable alternative employment wherever possible. Someone on parental leave must also be included in the consultation process about redundancy if their job is at risk.

That said, making someone redundant while they are on parental leave can be risky, so it is particularly important to have expert legal advice if you are an employer in this position. We will be happy to support you with any questions you may have around redundancy in relation to maternity and paternity leave rights.

What reasonable adjustments can be made for someone who is breastfeeding?

Exactly what reasonable adjustments an employer needs to make for a breastfeeding employee will vary depending on the type of work and workplace, as well as the employee’s role and their specific needs. The employer is legally required to carry out a specific risk assessment and to provide suitable facilities for breastfeeding mothers to rest.

It is also recommended by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that breastfeeding mothers be provided with private, healthy and safe environments in which to express and store their breast milk. It is specifically noted that toilets do not constitute a suitable place for this.

Failing to provide the required reasonable adjustments could be considered a form of maternity discrimination, so it is important to get the right support to ensure you can act appropriately.

What are keeping in touch days?

During maternity leave, employees are allowed to work for up to 10 days, which are known as ‘keeping in touch’ or ‘KIT’ days. Working these days does not affect the employee’s maternity rights.

Employees also have the right to work up to 20 days during Shared Parental Leave. This allowance is in addition to the keeping in touch days with these extra 20 days being known as ‘shared parental leave in touch’ or ‘SPLIT’ days.

Why choose Glanvilles’ employment lawyers for help with maternity and paternity rights for your business?

Our maternity lawyers can offer:

  • In-depth experience across a range of issues relating to maternity, including maternity leave, maternity pay, and maternity discrimination
  • Advice and robust representation in handling maternity disputes and potential employment tribunal proceedings
  • Advice in related areas of employment law to provide an effective and cohesive approach
  • Advice in respect of domicile and residence as it relates to issues such as arrangements for children and divorce

The Glanvilles’ client service promise

When you use our maternity advice service, we promise:

  • Our staff will be friendly, respectful and attentive.
  • Your concerns will be listened to, your questions answered, and your options explained in plain English.
  • The cost of dealing with your requirements will be made clear to you from the outset.
  • We will answer your phone calls and emails promptly.
  • We will keep you regularly updated at all times.

Get in touch with our maternity solicitors in Chichester, Fareham, Havant and Petworth

Looking for expert legal help with any maternity or paternity issues that may be facing your business?

Contact our highly experienced maternity and paternity rights solicitors in Chichester, Fareham, Havant or Petworth or fill in our online enquiry form and we will get back to you quickly.