The aim of this blog post is to help you to understand more about what you are entitled to before and after your baby arrives.

When can I start my maternity leave?

You can request when you would like your maternity leave to start. The earliest that maternity leave can start is usually 11 weeks before the expected week of the birth.

If your baby arrives before you have officially started your maternity leave, it will start the day after your baby is born.

If you are off work with a pregnancy-related illness within four weeks of your baby’s due date, then your maternity leave will start automatically, regardless of when you had agreed for it to start.

How long does maternity leave last?

Statutory Maternity Leave is a period of up to 52 weeks.

Ordinary Maternity Leave covers the first 26 weeks (from Day 1 of your maternity leave) and Additional Maternity Leave covers a further 26 weeks.

Statutory Maternity Pay only covers the first 39 weeks and the amount you will receive decreases with time. Some people choose to return to work much earlier than the 39 weeks, but you must take at least 2 weeks off after the birth and 4 weeks in some forms of employment.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

Shared Parental Leave, involves some of your maternity leave being handed over to your partner.

You may qualify for Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay, if you are having a baby, using a surrogate, adopting a child, or fostering with a view to adoption.


What is Statutory Maternity Pay?

It is a payment for the time off you take off for maternity leave, directly prior to your baby’s birth and for the months afterwards.

This is the information given by the government website (Gov.UK)

‘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

·      £156.66 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.’

What is Maternity Allowance?

You may qualify for Maternity Allowance if you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay from your employer, you are self-employed, you have recently stopped working or you take part in unpaid work for your partner. It covers 39 weeks.


How much notice do I have to give my employer?

You should tell your employer at least 15 weeks before the baby is expected. The date of maternity leave should be agreed by your employer. They will expect you to take 52 weeks off, so if you intend to return earlier than that, you need to give them at least 28-days-notice before you return to work.  

Maternity leave plans can change. Some people want to leave it as near to their due date as possible, so that they can maximise the time spent with their baby after the birth. For others, in a physically demanding or higher risk job, they may decide to start their maternity leave earlier. If your plans change, as your pregnancy progresses, you should notify your employer if you wish to start your leave earlier.

Here at The IVF Network, we provide information through our dedicated channel of experts, our website and our blog posts, to help you to be well-informed on your personal journey to parenthood.


‘Maternity pay and leave’ Gov.UK


‘Maternity Allowance’ Gov.UK