Maternity, Paternity & Adoption rights

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Health Assured team

15 March 2023

Expecting a baby can be a very exciting time but this doesn’t come without its uncertainties. Understanding what rights, you have can be reassuring and provide that level of certainty you need. Under Employment law, women have maternity rights when taking time off from work when having a baby. Maternity refers to the period after the birth and is linked to maternity leave in the employment context. In a non-work context, protection against maternity discrimination is for 26 weeks after giving birth.

Maternity Leave

Women are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave in which they will be eligible for once they have given their employer the correct notice as well as being classed as an employee. During their maternity leave, women are entitled to maternity pay. Employers may provide their own maternity pay at an enhanced rate, in which their employees may have to meet set criteria for, to be eligible. If they fall outside the scope of eligibility or an employer doesn’t offer enhanced maternity pay, the pregnant employee will be entitled to statutory maternity pay.

Currently statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks. Employees do not have to take the full 52 weeks of leave but must by law take 2 weeks leave after their baby is born.

Maternity Pay

Statutory maternity pay is currently paid for up to 39 weeks. Employees are entitled to 90% of their average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks and then £184.03 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (if this figure is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

To be eligible for statutory maternity pay, employees must:

  • Have worked for their employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before their due date
  • Earn at least £123 a week on average

If an employee does not meet this criterion or is classed as self-employed, then employees may be entitled maternity allowance.

Paternity Leave & Pay

Male employees are entitled to paternity leave and pay. Usually this consists of 1-2 weeks of paid leave. Unlike maternity leave, paternity leave must start after the birth of the baby and end within 56 days of the birth. Statutory paternity pay is currently at £184.03, although an employer has the discretion to allow for further leave or an enhanced paternity pay scheme for their employees. Eligibility for paternity pay and leave is the same as maternity pay and leave.


When employees are looking to adopt a child or go ahead with surrogacy, the employees are entitled to statutory adoption leave and statutory adoption pay. The employees are also entitled to shared parental leave and pay.

Statutory adoption leave is 52 weeks. However, only one parent would be eligible for this, and the other could look to take paternity leave.

Adoption leave can start up to 14 days before the date the child starts living with you. Alternatively, it can start within 28 days if a child is being adopted from abroad, or it can start on the day that the child is born/the day after, if a surrogate has been used. Statutory adoption pay is the same as statutory maternity: 90% of weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks and then £184.03 for the next 33 weeks, totalling 39 weeks of pay.

Similarly, to maternity and paternity pay, the employer has the discretion to allow for a company adoption pay scheme.

To be eligible for adoption pay and leave, employees must provide proof of adoption or surrogacy, whether that be an overseas or UK adoption. They must also have been working for the employer for at least 26 weeks and provide the correct notice.

With all types of leave, employees are protected in the way that they are entitled to pay rises, accrue holiday as usual and have the right to return to work.

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