Ordinary maternity leave

To qualify for maternity leave, you must tell your employer by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth:

   that you are pregnant

   the expected week of childbirth, verified by means of a medical certificate, if requested

   the date you intend to start maternity leave. This can normally be any date which is no earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth up to the birth.

Your employer must then write to you within 28 days of notification, setting out your return date. You can change this date if you give your employer eight weeks' notice.

During the 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave (plus an optional 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave) you are entitled to benefit from all your normal terms and conditions of employment, except for remuneration (monetary wages or salary). You can also do up to 10 days work during your maternity leave without losing any Statutory Maternity Pay. Your employer should agree payment with you for the time worked.

At the end of maternity leave, you have the right to return to your original job. If a redundancy situation arises, you must be offered a suitable alternative vacancy if one is available. If your employer cannot offer suitable alternative work, you may be entitled to redundancy pay.

The employer has the right to trigger an earlier start to the maternity leave if you are absent after the beginning of the fourth week before the expected week of confinement.

You are entitled to this leave regardless of your length of service.

Additional maternity leave

To qualify for additional maternity leave, you should have been employed for 26 weeks, at the end of the 15th week immediately preceding the expected week of confinement. Additional leave is unpaid and is for a further period of 26 weeks.

Maternity pay

You are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if you have been employed by your employer for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth, and have average weekly earnings at least equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions. SMP can be paid for up to 39 weeks – it is payable by the employer but partly (or, for small firms, wholly) reimbursed by the State.

From April 2010, the standard rate of SMP is £128.73 a week (or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings if they are less than £128.73 a week). For the first six weeks, the rate is 90 per cent of average weekly earnings with no maximum limit. The standard rate of SMP is reviewed every April.

What do you have to do?

If you are pregnant, you are required to notify your employer of your intention to take maternity leave by the 15th week before your expected week of confinement. You should tell your employer the date your baby is due, and supply a MAT B1 form, which can be obtained from your GP or midwife, and advise your employer of the date you intend to start your maternity leave. You can change your mind about the start date, but you are required to give 28 days notice of this.

In response to your notification, the employer will be required to confirm in writing the date they expect you to return. There will be no more correspondence. You return to work on the agreed date, 26 weeks after the start of your leave, or one year after the start. If you want to return earlier than agreed, you should give 28 days notice

Antenatal appointments

You will be entitled to paid time off for antenatal appointments. You should, however, provide an appointment card after the first antenatal appointment. 

Members of the BVNA can contact the IRS Helpline for free advice and support. Call 01822 870270 or e-mail Nicky@hrsupportconsultancy.co.uk


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA (Hons) Business Studies Degree, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and who has been a practising HR manager for over 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA's Industrial Relations Service since it began in 2002.

• VOL 26 • September 2011 • Veterinary Nursing Journal