Telling work about your pregnancy is a tricky one. It was something I was dreading. Even worse with Alice given that I was still on maternity leave with Molly when I found out I was pregnant. Let’s just say my old job at an advertising agency was fast paced and pressured and I knew what the reaction would be – they would be happy for me but would be instantly thinking of all the projects that would need to be sorted. I often had to move doctors appointments and even one of my scans due to client meetings and TV shoots.

I really didn’t know anything about anything. When should I be telling work and what were my entitlements thereafter? Most importantly how much would I get paid!! I’m not entirely sure I understood it afterwards either if I’m honest. It’s baffling.

So I thought it would be good to bring you a quick guide. I must stress though that this is my interpretation of the rules so pretty pretty please make sure you talk to your HR department (if relevant) with any questions or queries.

When to tell your work

When you tell your employer is up to you but it must be by the end of the 15th week before your baby is due. I chose to tell them shortly after my 12 week scan. Mostly because I was excited to natter to my friends about it and I’m not exactly quiet!! On the flip side I have a friend who didn’t tell her employer until close to 6 months.

You will need to supply them with a MATB1 form which is you medical certificate to show the date your baby is due. Your midwife or GP will be able to provide this at around 20 weeks. You don’t need this straight away when you decide to tell your employer but they will require the form before your maternity leave starts.

When can you start maternity leave?

You can start your maternity leave any time after the 11th week before your baby is due. Most women choose to start 2-3 weeks before in order to maximise the amount of maternity leave after baby is born.

I never actually got to that point as both girls were early. With Molly my maternity leave was automatically started early as I was ill and off work. Your employer has the right to start your maternity leave if you are off work for any reason to do with your pregnancy during the last four weeks before your baby is due.

How much maternity leave do you get?

The amount of maternity leave you take is up to you. The law states that women must take at least two weeks off immediately after birth and you have the right to take up to one year’s or 52 weeks maternity leave.

The first 26 weeks of your maternity leave is called Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and then you can take 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave (AML) giving you a total of 52 weeks. If you choose to take AML it must be done straight after your OML with no gap.

Once you have told your employer the date you want to start maternity leave they will most likely put together a calendar for you showing when your maternity leave runs out and the date that you will be expected to return to work.

Most people can be quite clever with holiday to maximise maternity leave. I used up holidays for the first week or so of my leave and then tagged it on to the end of of my maternity leave too. This meant that with Molly I had close to 60 weeks off. Yippee!

Maternity Pay

This is the bit I’m guessing most of you will be concerned about. I know I was. The pay you receive whilst on maternity leave depends on your own individual contract. Some lucky people receive full or half pay for the majority of their maternity leave. Most will receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) which will be paid for up to 39 weeks.

You can claim SMP if you have worked continuously for the same employer for 26 weeks at the 15th week before baby is due. This might explain it a bit better!

For the first 6 weeks of SMP you get paid 90% of your gross earnings. After that you will get paid £139.58 per week or 90% of your normal earnings. Whichever is the lowest. This is paid by your employer in the same way you normally are.

You may be able to still have some of your benefits so it is worth asking. For example I opted out of my company car scheme and took the car allowance instead. This gave me more than I was paying out on the car which was great as every little helps.

Time to get saving I’d say.

Time off

Whilst you are pregnant you allowed to have time off for doctors appointments and antenatal appointments.

Your employment rights

During your OML you will have all the same rights as your normal employment such as accruing holiday and getting any standard pay increases. The terms of your contract should also remain the same through both OML and AML. The one exception is that you will not get your normal pay unless you are on full maternity pay.

Your employer should keep in touch with you during your maternity leave if their are any issues that affect you or your role. This could include promotions or job vacancies. They are also not allowed to change your contract without agreement.

When you are on maternity leave this counts as continuous employment. This is important with various rights such as claiming statutory redundancy pay if you are faced with that situation.

Keeping in touch days

Whilst you are on maternity leave you are allowed to work and be paid for up to 10 days called ‘keeping in touch days’. These should be agreed with your employer and are a great way of getting back up to speed before returning or for things like training or team meetings. You do not have to do these. I never did. Equally your employer does not have to offer you these so it’s worth a chat if it’s something you would like to do.

Returning to work

In most cases your employer assumes you will take the full 52 weeks of your Statutory Maternity Leave. If you wish to return sooner than this you need to tell them before you go on maternity leave or if you make this decision whilst on maternity leave you will need to give your employer eight weeks written notice of the date you will be returning.

You have the right to return to your old job after your Ordinary Maternity Leave. After your Additional Maternity Leave you should be able to return to your previous job unless this is not reasonably practical. In that case you should be offered a similar role that is suitable.

If for any reason you are not allowed to return then you may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal or discrimination.

Unfortunately you have no automatic right to return part time after your maternity leave. This will be up to your employer and something you need to discuss with them. They must consider any requests for flexible working. I was lucky that I was allowed to work 4 days a week after Molly and finish 30 minutes early by working through lunch to get her from nursery. After Alice I wanted to work less hours which unfortunately wasn’t going to be possible so I left for pastures new.
As I said this is just outline details but I do hope it has been useful and one less thing to worry about. If anyone has any nuggets of information or anything I’ve missed then just yell!