During pregnancy it’s important to know what you’re entitled to in terms of maternity leave and pay – check out our guide to your statutory maternity employment benefits if you are unsure of your rights.
So what happens when you return to work? You are entitled to the same job and the same terms and conditions as before your maternity leave, as if you hadn’t been absent. This also applies if you return after any additional maternity leave, unless your employer can show that it’s not practical for you to return to your original job (e.g. because the job no longer exists). If this situation arises then you must be offered alternative work with the same terms and conditions as if you hadn’t been absent.
Do I have to give notice that I’m returning to work?
If you take your full maternity leave then you aren’t required to give notice of your return, although it is a good idea to do so. If you decide not to return to work at all then you must give your employer notice as you normally would.
What happens if I don’t want to take my full maternity leave allowance?
Your employer will assume that you will take your full maternity leave allowance, including additional maternity leave if you qualify. Should you decide not to take the full amount then you must give your employer at least eight weeks’ notice before returning to work early.
Breaks for breastfeeding mothers - what am I entitled to?
The International Labour Organisation's Maternity Protection Convention states that women should be entitled to one or more breastfeeding breaks during the working day or a daily reduction of hours of work to breastfeed without loss of pay. Mothers are also protected by the EC Directive on Pregnant Workers (1992) and subsequent Health and Safety at Work Regulations which protects women who are pregnant or have given birth and are breastfeeding.
Under these regulations employers are obliged to:
In order to make use of this protection, breastfeeding mothers should notify their employers in writing before returning to work.
Take positive and supportive attitudes to employees returning to work and breastfeeding
Assess risks to all employees, including new and expectant mothers, and do what is reasonably practicable to control those risks
Make available information about breastfeeding for pregnant employees
Wherever possible, allow appropriate flexibility in working hours, including regular breaks for employees who wish to breastfeed or to express milk
Ensure there is a clean, private area available with a dedicated refrigerator, for the use of breastfeeding employees
What do I do if I experience problems with my employer?
If you are experiencing trouble with your rights then talk to your employer directly first. Your trade union official or employee representative may also be able to help. If both of these options fail then you may need to make a complaint using your employer’s internal grievance procedure. You could also make a complaint to an Employment Tribunal as a last resort.
For more information on your rights and allowances visit direct.gov.uk.