Legal Article - Employment Law

Beginning Maternity Leave

A woman can normally decide when she begins her statutory maternity leave provided it is not earlier than the 11th week before the EWC. It can be anytime up to the EWC, unless she is absent from work wholly or partly because of pregnancy or childbirth after the beginning of the sixth week before the EWC. In this circumstance the maternity leave begins automatically, on the first day of absence following the beginning of the sixth week before the expected week of childbirth, whether or not the woman has given her employer the date when she wants to begin her maternity leave.

To preserve her rights to maternity leave, certain notice requirements must be met. The employee must notify her employer of the date on which she intends her leave to begin at least 21 days before that date, or, if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as is reasonably practicable.
The date cannot be before the beginning of the 11th week before the EWC. The notice must be in writing if the employer so requests. The 21 days notice is not required where maternity leave is due to a pregnancy related absence in the six weeks before the EWC, or the birth of the baby.

In these circumstances, the employee must notify the employer as soon as is reasonably practicable.

In addition, the employee must inform her employer, at least 21 days before her leave begins or, if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as is reasonably practicable, that she is pregnant and give her EWC. If the baby has already been born, its date of birth should be given instead of the EWC. This notice must be in writing. If the employer requests it, the employee must produce a certificate from a doctor or midwife giving her EWC (form MAT B1 is normally used).

For additional maternity leave the employer is entitled to ask, no earlier than 21 days before the end of the 26 week maternity leave period, for written confirmation that she intends to return to work.

This must be provided within 2l days of receiving the employer’s request, or as soon as is reasonably practicable. If she does not, she does not lose her right to return to work after the additional maternity absence, but the employer can take disciplinary action against her.
When the employer makes the request about returning to work, he/she must also give a written statement warning the women of the consequences of failing to reply within 21 days and explaining how she can determine the date on which the AML period will end.

Published: 27 May 2011

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