Usually, the earliest your maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. This is often just called the EWC and is confirmed by a doctor or midwife on a MAT B1 certificate. This is usually issued 20 weeks into your pregnancy.
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
You can delay starting your maternity leave for as long as you want, although medical advice would normally mean you finish work at least a couple of weeks before the baby is due. In theory you can work right up to the expected date of birth if you wish to and you are medically fit to do so. Your employer may ask for medical advice if there are concerns about your health. Any concerns should be discussed with you as your Employer has a legal duty to have regard to your health and welfare. Under Health and Safety law, your Employer should carry out a risk assessment as soon as you let them know you are pregnant.
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 maternity leave start and end dates.
Where possible, you should give your employer at least 28 days notice of the date you wish to start your maternity leave. This should be confirmed in writing. It should be noted that weekends and bank holidays are included when calculating whether 28 days notice has been given. In other words this is not 28 working days.
NOTE: You can change the start date of your leave if you wish, by giving your Employer at least 28 days notice of the new date.
(If the baby arrives prematurely or you develop problems, and it has not been possible to give your employer 28 days notice, do not worry, you do not lose any rights or entitlements – providing it was not reasonably practicable for you to give the required notice.)
If you take the 26 weeks Ordinary Leave you do not have to formally notify your Employer of your return. You must give 8 weeks notice if you wish to return earlier.
If you do not correctly notify the company about your maternity intentions you do not lose the right to return. However your employer may delay your return if you have not given the minimum (8 weeks) notice. It is also possible that an employer will consider disciplinary action against an employee who, without good reason, has failed to communicate with the employer in the required time periods.
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