Welcoming a new member into your family is an exciting time, but it also comes with its fair share of planning and paperwork, especially when it comes to navigating maternity leave. Understanding your entitlements, the duration of leave, and how to claim it is crucial for a stress-free transition into motherhood. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about maternity leave in the UK, ensuring that you’re well-prepared for your journey from pregnancy to parenthood.

Introduction to Maternity Leave in the UK

Maternity leave is a period of absence from work granted to a mother before and after giving birth. In the UK, maternity leave is a legal right for most employees, offering them the opportunity to take time off work to care for their newborn or newly adopted child. However, navigating the specifics of maternity leave—how long you can take, what you’re entitled to, and how to claim it—can often seem daunting. That’s where Contend steps in, offering clear, AI-driven legal guidance to help you understand your maternity leave rights.

For help with questions related to your issue, you can chat with one of Contend’s legal experts, and get immediate answers to your legal questions.

Understanding Your Maternity Leave Entitlement

The Basics of Maternity Leave

In the UK, you are entitled to up to 52 weeks of Maternity Leave. This is divided into two parts: Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), which covers the first 26 weeks, and Additional Maternity Leave (AML), which covers the last 26 weeks. You have the option to take the full 52 weeks, or a shorter period if you wish, but a minimum of two weeks’ leave is mandatory immediately after childbirth.

What You’re Entitled To

During maternity leave, you may be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks, provided you meet certain eligibility criteria regarding your employment status and earnings. SMP is paid at 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, followed by £156.66 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

Eligibility Criteria

To qualify for SMP, you must:

  • Have been employed by your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the ‘qualifying week’ – the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
  • Earn an average of at least £123 a week (before tax).
  • Provide the correct notice and proof of pregnancy to your employer.
Employment: how long till monday

How to Prepare and Apply for Maternity Leave

Notifying Your Employer

You must inform your employer about your pregnancy, your expected week of childbirth, and the date you intend to start your maternity leave by the end of the 15th week before your baby is due. You’ll also need to provide a MATB1 form, which you can get from your doctor or midwife.

Planning Your Leave

Deciding when to start your maternity leave is personal and can depend on various factors like your health, job nature, and family needs. While some women choose to work closer to their due date, others prefer to start their leave a few weeks before.

Your Rights During and After Maternity Leave

Keeping in Touch Days

You’re entitled to work up to 10 days during your maternity leave without losing your maternity pay or ending your leave. These are known as “Keeping in Touch” (KIT) days and can be a great way to stay connected with your workplace.

Returning to Work

After maternity leave, you have the right to return to your job under your original terms and conditions. If you’ve taken AML, and it’s not possible to return to the same job, your employer must offer a suitable alternative.

How Contend Can Help

At Contend, we understand that navigating maternity leave can be complex. Our AI legal assistant is here to provide personalized guidance, helping you understand your maternity leave rights and entitlements. Whether you have questions about your eligibility for SMP or how to notify your employer, Contend’s AI-driven platform simplifies the process, offering reliable legal advice in minutes.


Preparing for maternity leave is an essential part of your journey to motherhood. By understanding your entitlements and knowing how to navigate the application process, you can ensure a smooth transition into this new chapter of your life. Remember, you’re not alone. Contend is here to offer support and guidance every step of the way, making legal advice accessible and easy to understand. Chat now with Contend’s legal expert and take the first step towards securing your maternity leave rights.

Navigating maternity leave doesn’t have to be complicated. With the right information and support, you can focus on what truly matters – welcoming your new baby into the world.

You can click here to chat with one of Contend’s legal experts today.

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