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Maternity, paternity and adoption rights

13 December 2005
Maternity, paternity and adoption rights

This article first appeared on www.personneltoday.com, the website of Personnel Today magazine.

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Here we provide a summary of maternity, paternity and adoption rights…

How much maternity leave are women entitled to?

  • Pregnant employees are entitled to take 26 weeks' ordinary maternity leave (OML), regardless of how long they have worked for their employer

  • Women who have completed 26 weeks' continuous service by the beginning of the 14th week before the baby is due, are entitled to a further 26 weeks' additional maternity leave (AML), making one year of maternity leave in total.

How much maternity pay are women entitled to?

  • Where a woman has completed 26 weeks' continuous service with her employer into the 15th week before the week her baby is due, she will be entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) during the OML period

  • During the first six weeks of the OML period, SMP is paid at the rate of 90% of average weekly earnings. For the remaining 20 weeks, SMP is paid at the lower SMP rate applicable at the time.

What notification periods are needed regarding maternity leave?

  • By the 15th week before the week the baby is due, a woman must notify her employer of her pregnancy, her expected week of childbirth and the date she intends to begin maternity leave (unless this is not reasonably practicable)

  • The employer must respond within 28 days, setting out the employee's rights, her expected date of return, and notifying her that it is her responsibility to report any changes in her situation to her employer

  • The employee must give 28 days' notice to her employer if she wishes to change her return date

  • The employee must give 28 days' notice of the date on which she intends to start her maternity leave. After the 28th day before the week the baby is due, if the employee is ill and absent for any reason connected to pregnancy, her maternity leave will be triggered automatically.

How much paternity leave and pay are men entitled to?

  • Paternity leave will be available to the biological father of the child, or the mother's husband or partner, where the employee has or expects to have responsibility for the child's upbringing

  • Providing that an employee has at least 26 weeks' service prior to the 15th week before the week the baby is due, an employee would be entitled to two weeks' paid paternity leave

  • Paternity leave must be taken for either one week or two consecutive weeks (not odd days).

  • Paternity leave will be paid at the same rate as the lower rate of SMP.

What notification periods are needed regarding paternity leave?

  • Employees planning to take paternity leave must notify their employers in the 15th week before the week the baby is due, unless this is not reasonably practicable. Employees should complete a self-certificate to be made available by employers setting out the date the baby is due and whether they wish to take paternity leave

  • Paternity leave can start on any date after the child's birth provided that it is completed within 56 days of the child's birth.

How much adoption leave and pay are employees entitled to?

  • Providing an employee has 26 weeks' service prior to the date on which they are matched with a child, they will be entitled to adoption leave and adoption pay

  • Employees will be entitled to 26 weeks' ordinary adoption leave and, subject to having the necessary service, 26 weeks' additional adoption leave, making one year in total, on similar terms to maternity leave

  • Statutory adoption pay will be introduced for 26 weeks at the same rate as SMP.

What other rules apply to adoption leave?

  • Where couples adopt jointly, they can choose which of them takes the adoption leave

  • The partner of someone who takes adoption leave may be entitled to paternity leave, providing they have at least 26 weeks' service

  • Adoption leave will be available to those adopting children up to 18 years of age, as long as the child is newly placed for adoption

  • Adoption leave applies to those adopting children overseas as well as in the UK.

What notification periods are needed regarding adoption leave?

  • Employees must give their employer notice no more than seven days after they are notified of having been matched with the child, that they intend to take adoption leave or paternity leave. To qualify for adoption pay, an employee must give their employer at least 28 days' notice of the start of adoption leave (unless this is not reasonably practicable)

  • Adoptive parents will be protected from suffering a detriment or unfair dismissal for reasons connected with taking or seeking to take adoption leave or the benefits of adoption leave. The protection will begin when parents are approved for adoption.

Further information

See the Department of Trade and Industry's Employment Relations website at www.dti.gov.uk/er

Graham Richardson is a solicitor at Dickinson Dees law firm

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