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I’m having a baby. How much leave will I get?

You can take up to a year's leave from work. It does not depend on how long you have worked for your boss, or how many hours you do a week.

When can I take my leave?

Advice Now Web 0030 OpIt's your choice. You can start your maternity leave at any time as long as your baby is due in 11 weeks or less. If you intend to work up until your baby is due, and then your baby comes early – your leave will start when your baby arrives.

What do I need to do?

You need to tell your boss that you are pregnant (this brings other benefits as well, because as soon as your boss knows they have to look after your health and safety more).

You might tell them earlier, but the general rule is that you should tell them by the 15th week before your baby is due (that's the week in which you are 25 weeks pregnant). For these purposes, weeks start on a Sunday. They only need to know the week your baby is due and the date you want to start your leave. You don’t have to put it in writing unless they ask you to, but it's always a good idea to do so.

If you will be getting Statutory Maternity Pay, you might want to say when you want your pay to start as well (see below). You don’t have to tell them how long you expect to take off at this stage; they should assume you’ll take the full year.

Ask Bev

Ask Bev!

I'm pregnant. My friends know, but I don’t want to tell my boss because I am going for promotion. I don’t want to hurt my chances, but I also don’t want him to think that I tricked him. What should I do?

Great news about your pregnancy! You should be able to shout it from the rooftops. However, you are right to want to consider how you approach the subject with your boss. The first thing to say is that he might be supportive and positive, do you have any reason to think that he won’t be? Some employers treat pregnant women very well.

Write to your boss as soon as possible and let him know that you are pregnant. Tell them the week the baby is due and when you want to start maternity leave (if you already know). As soon as they know you are pregnant, they have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of you and the baby. You must ask for a risk assessment otherwise your employer is under no duty to carry one out. He can make changes to your working hours or the jobs you do if they are needed. They also need to give you paid time off for medical appointments and pregnancy related illness - all of which may come in handy over the next few months. If they don't know about your pregnancy, they don't have to consider your needs.

It would be illegal for your boss not to give you the promotion because you're pregnant. If you didn’t get the promotion and could show that you were the best person, and that you probably would have got the job if you weren’t pregnant, you might be able to take your employer to an employment tribunal for sex discrimination. I know that you might not necessarily want to do this, but you would have the option to.
My boss keeps asking me how long I plan to take off because he has to organise cover for me. I haven’t made up my mind yet. What should I say?

It’s good that your boss is trying to organise cover for you, it shows that he is trying to plan ahead. All women are now entitled to 12 months maternity leave from the day they start work. You have the right to take the whole 12 months if you want to and your boss should assume that you are, unless you tell him otherwise.

If you are not sure how long you want to take off yet, why don’t you write to your boss (it is always best to write) telling him that you will let him know ASAP. Tell him, you will give him at least 8 weeks notice of the date when you want to come back to work, so that he can arrange for your cover to finish. That should reassure him.

If you have given 8 weeks notice, your boss has to let you come back. But if you haven’t, he could send you home and not allow you to work until you have. Your boss has to allow you back to work at the end of the 12 months even if you haven’t given him any notice.

If you take only 6 months leave then you have a right to return to the same job as you did before you went on maternity leave, if you take 12 months you have the right to return to the same job, or if this is no longer available, another suitable one.

What happens while I'm on leave and afterwards?

For your rights during your leave, see While you are on leave.

For your rights going back to work, see Going back to work.

See Changing your hours or how you work and Taking time off for details of how you can use your rights to balance being the perfect parent with your work.

It is illegal for your boss or colleagues to treat you unfairly because you had a baby or took maternity leave.

April 2011

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