Before the birth

Parental leave

Parental leave

The information in this guide was last updated on 26/02/2014

Statutory maternity leave

Statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks (one year). An employer has to let a new mother take this time off and have her job waiting for her at the end of it. The minimum is two weeks’ leave (four for factory workers).

Statutory maternity pay is only available if:

  • You’ve been working for your employer for long enough – basically at least 26 weeks before the 15th week before the baby is due
  • You’re earning above the threshold: £109 per week in the 2013/2014 tax year.

If you’re getting statutory maternity pay, remember that the payments will stop after 39 weeks. You should budget for a lower income at the end of the leave. At the end of maternity leave, some women change their minds about going back to work. You don’t need to tell your employer about this in advance. If you don’t return to work, you might have to repay any extra maternity pay you received from your employer, over and above SMP.

Maternity allowance

Some women don’t work enough to meet the threshold for Statutory Maternity Pay, haven’t been working in their job long enough to qualify, or are self-employed. They may be able to claim Maternity Allowance (MA). Learn more about Maternity allowance.

Use your KIT days

A Keep in Touch day is a day you spend working for your old employer as a one-off during your maternity leave period, to help you ease you back into your role at the end of your leave. You can take up to 10 KIT days. They don’t affect your statutory maternity leave pay. Your employer doesn’t need to pay you extra for the work you do on KIT days – that’s entirely up to them. 

Paternity leave

New fathers get one or two weeks’ statutory paternity leave. It has to start after the birth and end within 56 days of the birth.

There’s also the option of additional paternity leave. This means fathers can take up a part of the mother’s maternity leave – up to 24 weeks – before the child’s first birthday. This can only happen if the mother has already gone back to work.

Adoption leave and pay

If you are in employment and adopt a child you are usually entitled to paid time off work when they first join your household. If you qualify, you can get up to 52 weeks of Statutory adoption leave. 

This will depend on:

  • you being an employee
  • you using an adoption agency
  • you being with your present employer, without a break, for at least 26 weeks before the adoption agency matched you with a child.

You will only qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay if you’ve worked for your employer for long enough and if you earn more than the threshold. For more information see the Money Advice Service page on adoption pay and leave.


Saving for children