Your rights, responsibilities and benefits
If you or your partner is expecting a baby - congratulations.
It's an exciting time. But it can also be a challenging time too, if you’re trying to fit antenatal appointments around busy shifts. Or you’re working your way through all the paperwork regarding your rights and benefits.
The good news is there are strict guidelines in place which support you and your baby throughout your pregnancy and during parental leave.
Your employer's responsibilities
As soon as you know you’re pregnant, let your employer know in writing.
They will make sure you and your baby are safe in the workplace and you’re are able to safely continue your duties. This will probably involve a risk assessment, which will look at occupational hazards, from the use of anaesthetic gases and radiation to shift working and on-call commitments, as well as manual handling.
Once you’ve informed your employer of your intention to take maternity leave, they have to let you know in writing, within 28 days, your paid and unpaid leave entitlements, your owed annual leave and your expected date of return to work.
Maternity Leave and Pay
You’re entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave which is made up of eight weeks full pay, followed by 18 weeks half pay then 26 weeks unpaid leave. To be eligible for NHS occupational maternity pay you must have one year’s continuous service by week 29 of your pregnancy.
Let your line manager know in writing before the end of your 25th week that you’d like to take maternity leave and when you want this this to start. If you don’t want to take the full 52 weeks, let your line manager know when you plan to return to work. (You can change your mind about this date later as long as you give eight weeks’ notice.)
You’re also entitled to a reasonable amount of paid time off to attend antenatal appointments.
If after maternity leave you don’t want to return to work, your employer will ask for the return of your awarded maternity pay. To avoid this, you need to return to work for at least three months within 15 months of the start of your maternity leave.
Additional paternity leave can be taken between 20 weeks and one year after the birth (or placement for adoption). It can only be taken as multiples of complete weeks and as one continuous period. You must give you employer at least eight weeks’ notice of your intention to take additional paternity leave.
Fathers (or the mother’s husband/partner) are also entitled to 10 days paternity leave after the arrival of the baby. This applies to same sex partners too.
The Additional Paternity Leave Regulations came into effect in April 2010, which means as the father, you may be entitled to up to 26 weeks additional paternity leave (provided the mother of the baby has returned to work).
Additional paternity leave can be taken between 20 weeks and one year after the birth (or placement for adoption). It can only be taken as multiples of complete weeks and as one continuous period. You must give your employer at least eight weeks’ notice of your intention to take additional paternity leave.
The Pregnant Anaesthetist
More about your rights, responsibilities and benefits, Anaesthesia News, 2008
Pregnancy and work
Everything you need to know as a pregnant employee, by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2010
A Guide for New and Expectant Mothers Who Work
Information on working while pregnant, returning to work after giving birth, and protecting the health and safety of you and your child. Published by the Health and Safety Executive, 2009.
Advice for Working Parents
Information on shared parental leave, your rights and responsibilities, maternity leave FAQs and returning to work, British Medical Association.