Q. I've just found out I'm pregnant and am unsure what rights I have at work. Some of my friends keep talking about Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave. What do these mean?
A. You do have lots of rights and it's important to understand them. Currently, all employed mums-to-be are entitled to Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), no matter how long you've been in the job or how many hours a day you work. Also, if you go back to work straight after your OML you have the right to return to the same job. If you started your job before becoming pregnant you're entitled to a further 26 weeks unpaid Additional Maternity Leave (AML), which starts the day after your OML ends. If you take AML you have the right to return to the same job or a suitable alternative on similar terms and conditions.
Q. What pay will I get when I'm on maternity leave?
A. All mums who were employed in the same job before becoming pregnant and who, on average, earn at least £82 per week are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). This is 90% of your average pay for the first six weeks, then £106 per week, or 90% of your average earnings if this is lower, for the following 20 weeks. Do check your contract and speak to your boss as money can vary from employer to employer.
Q. My husband and I are self-employed. Does this mean I'm not entitled to any benefits?
A. If you're self-employed, unemployed pr don't qualify for SMP you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance (MA), which is £106 per week for 26 weeks, or 90% of your average earnings. You can claim this if you worked for at least 26 of the 66 weeks before your expected week of childbirth and, on average, you earned more than £30 for 13 of those 66 weeks.
Q. Does my employer have a say in when I take maternity leave?
A. It's up to you when to start your leave, but if you have a pregnancy-related illness or absence in the last four weeks of your pregnancy, even if you're just off for a day, your employer can insist your OML starts from that point.
Q. If I change my mind about returning to work, do I have to repay maternity pay?
A. If you qualified for SMP, you don't have to pay it back (your employer will recover most of this from the Government anyway). However you may have to return to work for a certain period of time or pay back any extra money paid on top of SMP if this is stated in your contract.
Q. I'm about to go back to work after my first baby and have just discovered I'm pregnant again. What rights do I have?
A. The fact that you are on maternity leave doesn't affect your rights. Because you were employed by your company before becoming pregnant a second time you are entitled to further leave with this baby. You can take a second period of OML and AML. However, to claim SMP you need to earn at least £82 in the last two months before your Qualifying Week - the 15th week of childbirth. If you don't qualify for this you may be eligible for MA instead.
Q. My baby was born seven weeks early so my maternity leave started earlier than I'd planned and is nearly up. Do I get any form of extended leave?
A. You can't stay off any longer, or you'll lose your right to return to work. But talk to your employer about taking annual leave, as this continues to mount up during maternity leave. You can also take parental leave (usually unpaid) or request unpaid leave. Whatever you decide, ask your employer to confirm in writing both this agreement and that you have he right to return to the same job.