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A Guide to Maternity Leave

When a woman is preparing to leave work to give birth it can be both an exciting and stressful time.  This article shall focus on the key things workers should know when it comes to maternity leave.  Firstly, by focusing on the entitlement of maternity leave, how much money a woman on maternity leave will receive, as well as how to apply for maternity leave and finally what happens when a woman returns to work afterwards.

If a woman is pregnant, she is entitled to time off work to attend hospital appointments and relaxation classes before the baby is born.  This is allowed by employers as long as it is made on the advice of a medical practitioner or for example a registered health advisor.  After the first antenatal care appointment, the woman should show her manager her appointment card for future reference.

The Work and Families Act 2006 introduced changes which have applied to all babies born after April 1st 2007.  All employed women are entitled to 26 weeks maternity leave and the payment for maternity allowance has been increased to 39 weeks.  Women are also allowed to conduct 10 days of work if they wish during their official maternity leave.  If an employed women decides to do this, there Statutory Maternity Pay is not affected.  This is known as Keeping In Touch Days.

While the amount of maternity leave a woman takes can vary, all women are subject to compulsory maternity leave of a minimum of two weeks after their baby is born.  During CML women are not allowed to carry out any work for the Scottish Government and it is also illegal for an employer to make a woman work during the CML.  A woman is entitled to take up to twelve months leave after her child is born, that is made up of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) which is 26 weeks as well as Additional Maternity Leave (AML) at 26 weeks.

A woman will qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) as long as she meets all of the statutory qualifying conditions.  They have been employed by the Scottish Government into the qualifying week which is the 15th week before the baby is due.   Have given the correct notification of your intention to take maternity leave and have been employed by the Scottish Government for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks ending.

If a woman does not qualify for SMP, they may be able to claim up to 39 weeks' Maternity Allowance from  their local JobCentre Plus office. Further information about the Maternity Allowance can be found on the JobCentre Plus website.  However, if the woman does qualify for SMP, the rate for the first six weeks is 90% of your average weekly earnings with no upper limit.  For the remaining 33 weeks, the rate is the Standard rate or a rate equal to 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

When it comes to applying for maternity leave, the first thing the employee should do is contact their manager to inform them of the fact that they are pregnant as well as the expected week the baby will be born and when they expect to begin maternity leave.  The notice of intention to begin maternity leave must be given to the employer before the 15th week before the baby is expected to be born.  Failure of notification could result in the woman losing her right to choose when she wants to start maternity leave.

A pregnant employee must also send her MATB1 certificate (which the midwife or GP will gives her) to the HR Shared Service Centre.  The Shared Service Centre will then write within 28 days of receiving the form to the confirm with the woman the entitlements she has and when her maternity leave officially begins and officially ends.  Maternity leave can also begin earlier the official start date in some circumstances.  Some of these circumstances  include the woman's absence from work due to a pregnancy related illness or the baby being born early.  However, if a pregnant woman is dismissed or resigns before the notified date or before she is notified a date she may lose the entitlement to maternity leave.

Whilst on maternity leave, employees are entitled to be kept informed by the Scottish Government on promotion opportunities and/or anything else that the worker would have been informed of had they been aware of if they were at work.

When returning from maternity leave, the employee has the right to go back to the same post she occupied before taking maternity leave provided it is still available.  If not, she is entitled to take up a similar job with the same terms and conditions.  However, it is important to discuss the options with a manager before the worker takes maternity leave.

If a employee wishes to return to work before the end of her full maternity leave period, she must give eight weeks' notice of her return to work.  Similarly, if a employee wishes to return to work later than previously stated, she must  have notified the HR Shared Service Centre of her change in plans and must enclose in writing the new date she proposes to return back to work on.  This confirmation must be sent to the HR Shared Service Centre at least eight weeks before the original expected date of your return.

All employees who are parents of children under the age of six and disabled children under the age of 18 have the right to request flexible working patterns to fit in with caring for their children whilst balancing their work life. Similarly, if an employee is  pregnant or given birth within the last six months, or are breastfeeding and they believe that they their work environment is putting them or their babies health at risk, this should be brought to the attention of their Manager. For example, a woman working in a lab with chemicals would be excused from carrying out certain experiments which could pose a threat to the unborn child's health.

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