Your rights when returning to work after maternity leave

When you return to work after maternity leave, it’s important to know your rights. Here’s what you should know about your job, pay, holidays and flexible working before you go back to work.

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 could 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.

However, sometimes it’s just not practical to have 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 may be entitled to redundancy pay.

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 all 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:

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

To request flexible working, you need to have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks (including maternity leave). But remember that you only have the right to ask for flexible working - not the right to have it.

If your employer agrees, keep in mind that it typically takes around 14 weeks from your request for flexible working to implementing the new arrangement.

Find out more about flexible working on GOV.UK

Parental leave

Did you know?

Parental leave isn’t the same as your right to take unpaid time off to cope with an emergency, such as your child falling ill, which you can take regardless of how long you’ve been with your employer.

If you’ve worked for your employer for more than one year, you have the right to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid leave for each child, up to their 18th birthday in most cases.

You might take parental leave to:

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

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.

Find out more about parental leave on GOV.UK

Keeping in touch

Your employer is entitled to make reasonable contact with you during your maternity leave, perhaps to tell you about changes at work, opportunities for promotion or job vacancies.

You can also work up to 10 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.

  1. Find out if what’s happening is discrimination. You can call Acas for help with this on 0300 123 1100.
  2. Talk to your employer or human resources department. You might be able to resolve the issue informally. If you’re not sure where to start, Acas can help, or try speaking to your trade union or employee representative if you have one.
  3. If you can’t resolve the issue informally, you can make a written complaint.

For further help and advice:

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