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Your rights when returning to work after maternity leave

Before you return to work after maternity leave, it’s important to know your rights about your job, pay, holidays and flexible working.

When to tell your employer

You must give your employer eight weeks’ notice if you want to return to work earlier or later than your agreed date.

Same job, same terms and conditions

It’s easy to assume that everything’s going to be back to normal when you return to work after maternity leave.

But six months or a year is a long time, and there might have been big changes at work – not to mention the massive changes in your own life.

So, it’s important to know where you stand.

In general, you have the right to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions after your maternity leave.

But sometimes it’s not practical to go back to exactly the same job – for example, if your role involved night shifts which you can’t do any more.

If this is the case, you have the right to be offered a similar job on terms and conditions at least as good as your previous role.

If your role has become redundant you should be offered a suitable alternative vacancy.

If there isn’t one, you might be entitled to redundancy pay.

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Pay and conditions

You have the right to receive any pay rises or improvements in terms and conditions for your job that took place while you were on leave.

Holidays

Your holiday entitlement builds up while you’re on maternity leave in the same way it would if you’d been at work.

If you haven’t added it to your maternity leave, you often have the right to take what’s left. Check with your employer first.

Flexible working

You might consider asking for flexible working to improve your work-life balance.

This includes:

  • job sharing
  • home working
  • staggered hours
  • part-time working.

To request flexible working, you need to have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks (including maternity leave).

But be aware that you only have the right to ask for flexible working – not the right to have it.

If your employer agrees, it usually takes around 14 weeks from your request for flexible working to put in place the new arrangement.

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Parental leave

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Have you worked for your employer for more than one year? Then you have the right to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave for each child – up to their 18th birthday in most cases.

You might take parental leave to:

  • look at new schools
  • spend more time with your child
  • spend more time with visiting family
  • settle children into new childcare arrangements.

Parental leave doesn’t have to be taken in one continuous stretch – but must be taken in week-long blocks (unless your child has a disability).

The most each parent can take each year is four weeks for each child, unless your employer has agreed otherwise.

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Keeping in touch

Your employer is entitled to make reasonable contact with you during your maternity leave – for example, to tell you about:

  • job vacancies
  • changes at work, or
  • opportunities for promotion or job vacancies.

You can also work up to ten days during your maternity leave without losing maternity pay or benefits, or ending your leave.

These are called ‘keeping in touch’ days and can only be worked if both you and your employer agree.

If you think your employer isn’t being fair

If you don’t think your employer is treating you correctly or recognising your rights when you go back to work, there are some things you can do.

  • Find out if what’s happening is discrimination. Read more about discrimination on the Citizens Advice website
  • Talk to your employer – perhaps the HR department. You might be able to resolve the issue informally. If you’re not sure where to start, try speaking to your trade union or employee representative if you have one. Or Acas might be able to help – find out more on the Acas website
  • If you’re not able to resolve the issue, you can make a written complaint.
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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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