How Maternity Leave works (in the UK)

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The reason for this post about how Maternity Leave works is because it is easy to get confused. Maternity Leave, Maternity Pay and a whole host of other terms which are applicable during your leave can all run into one and be too much to deal with in light of everything else you have going on right now.

This article is relevant whether this is your first pregnancy or have earned your Mummy stripey t-shirt a while ago (in a few months you will understand the stripey t-shirt joke). It focuses on what is applicable to us here in the UK. However, if you are in another country you will have your own rules which you should research after reading this post.

In this post I will explain to you the elements which make up Maternity Leave, explaining what they mean and how important they are.

What is Maternity Leave?

Maternity Leave is a legally protected period away from work (for a woman) due to the birth of a baby. Here in the UK, it runs for 52 weeks. If you are an employee you qualify for Maternity Leave as soon as you sign a contract with an employer. There is no qualifying period to be allowed Maternity Leave.

Maternity Leave is split into two periods: the first 26 weeks is called Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML). The second 26 weeks is called Additional Maternity Leave (AML). The distinctions between these two period is the protection of your rights to return to the same job.

Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean that you get Maternity Pay for all of that time (see below).

How Maternity Leave works (in the UK)

What is Maternity Pay?

Maternity Pay is the money you receive during Maternity Leave. It is paid for by your employer. In my experience, it is paid as part of the regular weekly or monthly payroll cycle.

It is important to keep in mind that Maternity Leave and Maternity Pay are not the same thing. Just because you are allowed 52 weeks of Maternity Leave, does not mean you will receive any Maternity Pay during that period.

The minimum Maternity Pay you can receive is called Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). This is a legal obligation on your employer (if you qualify) and must be paid for 39 weeks.

In addition to SMP, your employer might offer an enhanced or contractual Maternity Pay. This is where they will pay you over and above the SMP rate as part of your overall package. Do check your employer’s polices and your contract to see if you are eligible for this additional Maternity Pay. It can reduce a lot money worries during your Maternity Leave.

What are Keeping in Touch (KIT) Days?

KIT days are what the name says – a chance for you to keep in touch and up to date with what is going on at work. The beauty of KIT days are that you don’t need to work for the whole day to be paid for the day!

Up to 10 days are available for KIT days and they don’t comprise your Maternity Leave or Pay. Both you and your employer need to agree that they will be used but they are a great way to boost your Maternity Leave finances.

What does all of this stuff matter?

It can be easy to get confused by all of this and understand how maternity leave works. Especially if you are a first time Mum or you don’t have friends and family around you who have had to financially plan for Maternity Leave. Or you are like me and you didn’t take the time during your first pregnancy to figure this stuff out, and you left money on the table!

It’s important to look at this stuff first, you don’t want to rush out to buy everything you need for the baby only to figure out later that you don’t have enough money for Maternity Leave.

What should I do now?

There is so much to say about how Maternity Leave works. That’s why I have written this blog! You now need to go and find out what is applicable to your situation:

(1) Look for your employer’s Maternity Leave policy or check your staff handbook. If they don’t have these available, ask HR or the person who does the payroll.

(2) Look for your employment contract. If you don’t have a copy, ask for one from HR or payroll. You are looking for anything in your terms and conditions relevant to Maternity Leave and Pay.

(3) Check what Maternity Pay your employer offers.

(4) Check if you meet the qualifying period to receive Maternity Pay

(5) Find out what their policy is for KIT days. What amount is payable for working a KIT day?

Now that you have a good idea of what your Maternity Leave and Pay will be, you can start to get a clear picture of what your income will be during Maternity Leave.

Want to join a community of other New Mums who are planning their Maternity Leave? Come and join in the chat at Money Matters for the Mum to Be – Plan & Prepare for Maternity Leave