Pregnancy & Work Guide

Stephanie Martin

If you have recently found out that you are expecting a baby and you are working, you're probably starting to think about your rights as an employee. What am I entitled to? How much maternity allowance will I receive? Read our Pregnancy & Work Guide to find out more. 

Pregnant employees' rights in UK -

Maternity Pay and Leave

When you take time off to have a baby you might be eligible for:

There are rules on when and how to claim your paid leave and if you want to change your dates.

You can work out your maternity pay and leave online.

You may also be eligible to get Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

Employment rights when on leave

Your employment rights are protected while on Statutory Maternity Leave. This includes your right to:

  • pay rises
  • build up (accrue) holiday
  • return to work


Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks. It’s made up of:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave - first 26 weeks
  • Additional Maternity Leave - last 26 weeks

You do not have to take 52 weeks but you must take 2 weeks’ leave after your baby is born (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory).

Use the maternity planner to work out the dates for your ordinary and additional leave.

You may be entitled to take some of your leave as Shared Parental Leave.

Start date and early births

Usually, the earliest you can start your leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth.

Leave will also start:

  • the day after the birth if the baby is early
  • automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due

Use the maternity planner to work out the earliest date your maternity leave can start.

Change your date for returning to work

You must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice if you want to change your return to work date.


Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £148.68 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

Use the maternity pay calculator to work out how much you could get.

If you take Shared Parental Leave you’ll get Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). ShPP is £148.68 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

Start date

SMP usually starts when you take your maternity leave.

It starts automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due.

Problems and disputes

Ask your employer to explain your SMP if you think it’s not right. If you disagree about the amount or your employer cannot pay (for example because they’re insolvent), call the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) enquiry line.


Statutory Maternity Leave

You qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave if:

It does not matter how long you’ve been with your employer, how many hours you work or how much you get paid.

You cannot get Statutory Maternity Leave if you have a child through surrogacy - you could get Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay instead.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

To qualify for SMP you must:

  • earn on average at least £118 a week
  • give the correct notice
  • give proof you’re pregnant
  • have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the ‘qualifying week’ - the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth

You cannot get SMP if you go into police custody during your maternity pay period. It will not restart when you’re discharged.

Early births or you lose your baby

You can still get Statutory Maternity Leave and SMP if your baby:

  • is born early
  • is stillborn after the start of your 24th week of pregnancy
  • dies after being born

If you’re not eligible for SMP

Your employer must give you form SMP1 explaining why you cannot get SMP within 7 days of making their decision. You may be eligible for Maternity Allowance instead.

Download form SMP1 - ‘Statutory Maternity Pay’ (PDF, 57KB)

How to claim

Statutory Maternity Leave

At least 15 weeks before your due date, tell your employer when the baby is due and when you want to start your maternity leave. Your employer can ask for this in writing.

Your employer must write to you within 28 days confirming your start and end dates.

Use the maternity planner to work out when you must claim your maternity leave.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

Tell your employer you want to stop work to have a baby and the day you want your SMP to start. You must give them at least 28 days’ notice (in writing if they ask for it) and proof that you’re pregnant.

Your employer must confirm within 28 days how much SMP you’ll get and when it will start and stop.

If they decide you’re not eligible, they must give you form SMP1 within 7 days of making their decision and explain why.

Proof you’re pregnant

You need to give your employer proof of the pregnancy to get SMP. You do not need it for maternity leave.

Within 21 days of your SMP start date (or as soon as possible if the baby’s born early) give your employer either:

  • a letter from your doctor or midwife
  • your MATB1 certificate - doctors and midwives will give you this no more than 20 weeks before the due date

You will not get SMP if you do not give your employer proof that the baby is due.

Extra help

Maternity benefits

Use a benefits calculator to see what help you can get from:

  • Universal Credit
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit - this can continue for 39 weeks after you go on maternity leave
  • Income Support - you may get this while you’re not working

You could get a £500 Sure Start Maternity Grant (usually if it’s your first child).

If you’re not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay, you could get Maternity Allowance from the government.

Company maternity schemes

You might get more than the statutory amount of leave and pay if your employer has a company maternity scheme. They cannot offer you less than the statutory amount.

Extra leave

You could get 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave after the birth - this may be restricted to 4 weeks per year.


Rights while you're pregnant at work

You have legal rights while you’re pregnant at work. These rights can protect you from unfair treatment, make sure your work is safe and give you time off for antenatal appointments.

You’ll get different rights while you’re away from work on maternity leave.

Health and Safety

Once you’ve told your employer in writing that you’re pregnant, they have to check your job for any health and safety risks to you or your baby. This is called a ‘risk assessment’. They need to tell you about anything they find, such as:

  • long working hours
  • standing or sitting for a long time without a break
  • heavy lifting or carrying
  • exposure to toxic substances

When checking for risks your employer should talk to you about your pregnancy and what you need. Tell them any advice you’ve had from your doctor or midwife, and let them know if anything worries you.


Pregnant employees' rights in USA - U.S Department of Labor

The Family and Medical Leave Act

(Revised 2012) (PDF)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. This fact sheet provides general information about which employers are covered by the FMLA, when employees are eligible and entitled to take FMLA leave, and what rules apply when employees take FMLA leave.

Covered Employees

The FMLA only applies to employers that meet certain criteria. A covered employer is a:

  • Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer;
  • Public agency, including a local, state, or Federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.

Eligible Employees

Only eligible employees are entitled to take FMLA leave. An eligible employee is one who:

  • Works for a covered employer;
  • Has worked for the employer for at least 12 months;
  • Has at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12 month period immediately preceding the leave*; and
  • Works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

* Special hours of service eligibility requirements apply to airline flight crew employees. See Fact Sheet 28J: Special Rules for Airline Flight Crew Employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The 12 months of employment do not have to be consecutive. That means any time previously worked for the same employer (including seasonal work) could, in most cases, be used to meet the 12-month requirement. If the employee has a break in service that lasted seven years or more, the time worked prior to the break will not count unless the break is due to service covered by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), or there is a written agreement, including a collective bargaining agreement, outlining the employer’s intention to rehire the employee after the break in service. See "FMLA Special Rules for Returning Reservists".

Leave Entitlement

Eligible employees may take up to 12 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period for the birth of a son or daughter or placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care.

See Fact Sheets 28F: Qualifying Reasons under the FMLA for more information.

Under some circumstances, employees may take FMLA leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis. That means an employee may take leave in separate blocks of time or by reducing the time he or she works each day or week for a single qualifying reason. When leave is needed for planned medical treatment, the employee must make a reasonable effort to schedule treatment so as not to unduly disrupt the employer's operations. If FMLA leave is for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child, use of intermittent or reduced schedule leave requires the employer’s approval.

Under certain conditions, employees may choose, or employers may require employees, to "substitute" (run concurrently) accrued paid leave, such as sick or vacation leave, to cover some or all of the FMLA leave period. An employee’s ability to substitute accrued paid leave is determined by the terms and conditions of the employer's normal leave policy.


Employees must comply with their employer’s usual and customary requirements for requesting leave and provide enough information for their employer to reasonably determine whether the FMLA may apply to the leave request. Employees generally must request leave 30 days in advance when the need for leave is foreseeable. When the need for leave is foreseeable less than 30 days in advance or is unforeseeable, employees must provide notice as soon as possible and practicable under the circumstances.

When an employee seeks leave for a FMLA-qualifying reason for the first time, the employee need not expressly assert FMLA rights or even mention the FMLA. If an employee later requests additional leave for the same qualifying condition, the employee must specifically reference either the qualifying reason for leave or the need for FMLA leave. See Fact Sheet 28E: Employee Notice Requirements under the FMLA .

Covered employers must:

  • (1) Post a notice explaining rights and responsibilities under the FMLA (and may be subject to a civil money penalty of up to $110 for willful failure to post);
  • (2) Include information about the FMLA in their employee handbooks or provide information to new employees upon hire;
  • (3) When an employee requests FMLA leave or the employer acquires knowledge that leave may be for a FMLA-qualifying reason, provide the employee with notice concerning his or her eligibility for FMLA leave and his or her rights and responsibilities under the FMLA; and
  • (4) Notify employees whether leave is designated as FMLA leave and the amount of leave that will be deducted from the employee’s FMLA entitlement.

See Fact Sheet 28D: Employer Notice Requirements under the FMLA.


When an employee requests FMLA leave due to his or her own serious health condition, the employer may require certification in support of the leave from a health care provider.

Job Restoration and Health Benefits

Upon return from FMLA leave, an employee must be restored to his or her original job or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment. An employee’s use of FMLA leave cannot be counted against the employee under a “no-fault” attendance policy. Employers are also required to continue group health insurance coverage for an employee on FMLA leave under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. See Fact Sheet 28A: Employee Protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act .

Other Provisions

Special rules apply to employees of local education agencies. Generally, these rules apply to intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave or the taking of FMLA leave near the end of a school term.

Salaried executive, administrative, and professional employees of covered employers who meet the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) criteria for exemption from minimum wage and overtime under the FLSA regulations, 29 CFR Part 541, do not lose their FLSA-exempt status by using any unpaid FMLA leave. This special exception to the “salary basis” requirements for FLSA’s exemption extends only to an eligible employee’s use of FMLA leave.


It is unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise any right provided by the FMLA. It is also unlawful for an employer to discharge or discriminate against any individual for opposing any practice, or because of involvement in any proceeding, related to the FMLA. See Fact Sheet 77B: Protections for Individuals under the FMLA . The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for administering and enforcing the FMLA for most employees. Most federal and certain congressional employees are also covered by the law but are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management or Congress. If you believe that your rights under the FMLA have been violated, you may file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or file a private lawsuit against your employer in court.

For additional information, visit our Wage and Hour Division Website: and /or call our toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

This publication is for general information and is not to be considered in the same light as official statements of position contained in the regulations.


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