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What are my parental leave and pay rights?

Joel Kempson
Written by Joel Kempson, Personal Finance Writer

22 May 2020

Babies are expensive, but there are ways to make sure a newborn doesn’t break the bank. This guide explains what support you are entitled to and how to make sure you get it.

man holding baby 2

This guide details the statutory minimums you are due from your employer as a new parent. Check with your employer to see if they offer a more generous scheme.

How much can I get?

While your employer may choose to offer you more, you have a right to at least the statutory minimum.

Remember: these are gross figures, so tax and National Insurance deductions will mean your take home pay is less.

Statutory Maternity Pay

Use our Parental Leave Calculator to find out if you’re entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and how much time off you’d be able to take.

SMP is paid at 90% of your gross average weekly earnings for 6 weeks, but is then capped at £151.20  for the next 33 weeks. You can receive SMP for a maximum of 39 weeks.

You receive SMP in the same way as your wages, so monthly or weekly for most people.

This payment structure also applies to Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP).

Statutory Paternity Pay

The minimum for Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) is £151.20 per week, or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower.

This can be paid for one or two weeks, though your employer may offer more time off.

Eligibility

In order to qualify for SMP you must:

  • Be an employee with an employment contract

  • Tell your employer the day you want your SMP to start with at least 28 days’ notice 

  • Give your employer proof that you’re pregnant within 21 day of your SMP start date. This can be a letter from your doctor or midwife or your MATB1 certificate (doctors and midwives will give you this no more than 20 weeks before the due date)

In order to qualify for SPP, you must:

  • Be either the baby’s father, the husband or partner of the mother or adopter (this includes same-sex partners), the child’s adopter, the intended parent (if you’re having a baby through a surrogacy arrangement)

  • Have been employed by your current employer up to the date of birth and earn at least £120 per week, before tax.

  • Have been continuously employed by your employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the 15th week before the baby is due*

  • Tell your employer the due date, when you want your leave to start and if you want 1 or 2 weeks’ leave at least 15 weeks before the baby is due.

*This is different if you are adopting. Find out more about UK Government regulations on adoption and surrogacy payment and leave here.

Extra help

You may be entitled to benefits such as Child Benefit or Child Tax Credit, while you could also be eligible for a £500 Sure Start Maternity Grant if you or your partner are already paid certain benefits.

You also may be able to take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave.

Read our new parents guide to find out more.

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How do I claim?

If you fulfil the above eligibility criteria, your employer should pay you the amount due in the same way you are usually paid.

How long can I have off?

Maternity leave

Statutory Maternity Leave can be up to 52 weeks, though your employer does not have to pay you for this whole period.

You must take at least 2 weeks’ leave after your baby is born, or 4 if you work in a factory.

If your baby is born early, your leave begins from the day after the birth.

Paternity leave

You can choose to take either 1 or 2 weeks.

Shared parental leave

Instead of one parent taking 52 weeks of maternity leave and the other two weeks of paternity leave, new parents could instead share up to 50 weeks between them.

This can be taken as 25 weeks off together, by alternating periods on and off work, or any other arrangement. However, you must still take at least 2 weeks’ leave after you have given birth, or 4 if you work in a factory.

Shared parental leave is paid at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay, however £151.20 per week cap applies to the entire period and does not excuse the first 6 weeks as with SMP.

Can I work while I am off?

You can work for 10 days while on maternity leave without impacting your pay. These are known as ‘keeping in touch days’.

Rights on parental leave

While on leave, you have the right to any pay review you’d normally have. If your pay review involves rating your performance, your employer has to base this on the time you were at work.

Bonus pay should only be affected by your leave if it is based on attendance. If it is based on length of service or company profits, you are still due the full amount.

If any business decisions are made which affect you, your employer should still contact you.

What to do if your rights are not met

If you believe your rights for pay and leave are not being met, including while you are still at work, you should speak to your employer.

If that does not resolve the issue, contact Citizens Advice for free, independent advice on what to do next.

Going back to work

If you decide to end your leave before your agreed end date, give your employer at least 8 weeks before your new end date

To end your leave later, tell your employer at least 8 weeks before your old end date.

You always have a legal right to return to work after your parental leave. If you decide not to return, check your contract to find out what notice to give.

We've created a simple maternity pay calculator to tell you how much time you can afford to take off based on your own personal financial situation.

Parental leave calculator

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