Maternity, paternity and adoption rights
Your rights when having a baby
As an employee you may also be entitled to time off if you or your partner has either had a baby or adopted a child in the last year.
Please note that if your average earnings are less than the lower earnings limit for national insurance, you may not qualify for statutory maternity pay, statutory adoption pay or statutory paternity pay. Seek further advice if this applies to you. Other support may be available such as maternity allowance or certain state benefits.
All pregnant employees are entitled to 12 months of maternity leave. As long as you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the fifteenth week before your baby is due, and your average earnings are above a certain figure (£116 pw in 2018/19) you will also be eligible for statutory maternity pay (SMP) for the first 39 weeks of your leave.
For the first six weeks you get 90% of your average earnings. The remaining 33 weeks are paid at £145.18 per week or 90% of wages - whichever is the lower amount.
If you do not qualify for SMP your average earnings you may qualify for maternity allowance instead.
Fathers are entitled to paternity leave for either one week or two consecutive weeks. To qualify for paternity leave you must have worked for an employer for 26 weeks by the fifteenth week before the baby is due, and be the baby's biological father or the mother's husband or partner. You may also be entitled to statutory paternity pay during these two weeks.
Those who adopt children are entitled to up to 52 weeks' statutory adoption leave. If you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the date you are matched with a child, you can be paid statutory adoption pay for the first 39 weeks. There is also the option of taking a further 13 weeks' leave, usually unpaid. Leave may be taken by either partner if a couple adopt. You may be eligible for statutory adoption pay during this period.
Statutory shared parental leave
If a mum who is entitled to maternity leave or pay or maternity allowance decides to return to work early, they can share some of the unused leave with their partner under rules known as statutory shared parental leave (SPL).
You may also able to take SPL if you and your partner have jointly adopted a child, and your partner returns to work before they have used up all of their Statutory Adoption Leave.
A working mum must take at least two weeks maternity leave immediately after a child's birth, but she has the option of swapping all or part of the remaining 50 weeks of her maternity leave for SPL which she can then share with her partner.
This means that you and your partner have more flexibility in how you share the care of your child in their first year of birth or adoption. For instance you may decide to both be off at the same time or to take turns in having periods of leave to look after your child.
In order to be eligible for statutory shared parental leave your baby must be due, or your child placed for adoption, on or after the 5 April 2015.
Statutory shared parental pay
Depending on your circumstances you may be entitled to Statutory Shared Parental Pay while you are on SPL. However shared parental pay is only paid at a flat rate of £145.18 a week (or 90% of earnings if this figure is lower). Contact our helpline for further advice about whether you would qualify for SPL and Statutory Shared Parental Pay.
- Explore your childcare options.
- Find out about Carer's Allowance, the main benefit for carers.
- Download our new parent guide Moving into work [PDF] or request a free print copy from our helpline.