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Rights while you're on maternity leave

This advice applies to Scotland

You still have many of your usual work rights on maternity leave - but there are some differences.

Pay

You might be able to get maternity pay or Maternity Allowance while you’re on maternity leave. This is usually less than your normal pay.

Pay reviews

You have a right to any pay review you’d normally have. For example, if you get a pay review every March, you should still get this while you’re on maternity leave.

If your pay review involves rating your performance, your employer has to base this on the time you were at work. They can’t say your performance was worse just because you’re on maternity leave.

Sick pay

Unfortunately you can’t usually get sick pay while you’re on maternity leave. There’s a small chance you can get sick pay if your statutory maternity pay has finished but you’re still on maternity leave.

Once you return to work, you can get statutory sick pay as long as you aren’t getting statutory maternity pay on your first day sick. You’ll still need to meet the normal conditions for getting sick pay.  

If you’re getting statutory maternity pay on your first day sick, you won’t be able to get statutory sick pay until you’ve been back at work for 8 weeks.   

If you get contractual sick pay, check your contract - your employer could have different rules for when you get sick pay.

If you don’t get maternity pay or Maternity Allowance

Whether or not you’re on maternity leave, you can’t get statutory sick pay for 18 weeks after either:

  • you give birth

  • your maternity leave starts, if it starts early because you’re off sick for a pregnancy-related reason in the 4 weeks before your due date

If you’re already getting statutory sick pay it will end when these 18 weeks start.

After the 18 weeks you can get statutory sick pay if you meet the normal conditions. This normally means you’ll need to have returned to work.

Getting sick pay if your statutory maternity pay has finished but you’re still on maternity leave

If your first day sick happens after your statutory maternity pay ends, in rare cases you might get statutory sick pay (but not contractual sick pay) while you’re still on maternity leave.

You’ll need to meet the normal conditions for getting statutory sick pay. These conditions include earning an average of at least £112 a week in the previous 8 weeks. This means you’ll usually only get statutory sick pay if your illness starts soon after your statutory maternity pay ends.

You’ll also need a doctor’s note showing that you’d be too sick to work even if you weren’t on maternity leave.

Pension

Your employer will keep contributing to your work pension while you’re getting maternity pay. They’ll pay in the same amount as before you went on maternity leave.

You’ll also keep contributing to your pension but your payments will be based on your maternity pay, not your usual pay. This means you might pay less. For example, if you normally pay 5% of your wages into your pension, you’ll pay 5% of your maternity pay instead.

Your employer might let you stop contributing to your pension while you’re getting maternity pay, but it’s worth continuing to contribute if you can afford it. You’ll contribute less than usual while your employer pays your full normal amount.

If you’re not getting maternity pay

Your employer will stop contributing to your pension if you’re on maternity leave but not getting maternity pay, or your maternity pay has finished. Usually your contributions will stop as well, but you can contribute directly if you want. 

Bonuses

How your bonus works during maternity leave depends on what it’s normally paid for.

If your bonus is based on attendance

If your contract gives you a bonus based on work done in a year, you’re still entitled to part of your bonus. You’ll get your bonus for the part of the year you’re at work, but not the part of the year you’re on maternity leave.

The time you’re at work includes:

  • the first 2 weeks after your baby is born (4 weeks if you work in a factory)

  • any keeping in touch days you do during your maternity leave.

For example, if you work 3 months of your bonus year and then take 9 months of maternity leave, you’ll get 3 months and 2 weeks of your bonus.

If your bonus is based on length of service

Your maternity leave is part of how long you’ve been working for your employer. It shouldn’t affect any bonus you’d get for length of service.

If your bonus is based on company profits

You should get your full bonus if it’s based on company profits.

If your bonus is a one-off that isn’t in your contract

You should get any one-off bonuses that aren’t part of your contract. For example, your employer should include you if they give everyone extra money at Christmas.

Holiday

You build up holiday as normal while you’re on maternity leave.

If you can’t take your holiday because you’re on maternity leave, your employer should let you carry over up to 5.6 weeks of unused days (28 days if you work 5 days a week) into your next holiday year.

Bank holidays

You shouldn’t lose out on bank holidays while you’re on maternity leave. You should build up the same number of days off as if you’d been working - including bank holidays.  

Priya gets 25 days of holiday a year, plus 9 bank holidays. She takes a year of maternity leave. When she returns to work she’s built up 34 days of holiday.

Amy gets 30 days of holiday a year, but she doesn’t get bank holidays off. She takes a year of maternity leave. When she returns to work she’s built up 30 days of holiday.

Contact with your employer

Your employer can occasionally contact you about work while you’re on maternity leave, but they have to be reasonable. Before you start your maternity leave it can be useful to agree in writing how often your employer can contact you.

Tell your employer if you think they’re contacting you too much.

You can choose to do some work on maternity leave

You can agree to work for your employer for up to 10 days without interrupting your maternity leave or pay. These are called ‘keeping in touch days’. Any work you do should use a keeping in touch day - including going to training or meetings.

You should be paid for keeping in touch days. How much you get depends on your contract, but it must be at least the minimum wage.

You need to agree keeping in touch days with your employer - they can’t make you do them, but you can’t demand them either. You can arrange keeping in touch days for any time outside the first 2 weeks after your baby is born (4 weeks if you work in a factory).

Unfortunately if you work more than 10 keeping in touch days your maternity pay will be cut. You’ll lose the whole week’s maternity pay for any week when you work an extra keeping in touch day.

Your employer has to tell you about changes that affect you

There are some things your employer must tell you about:

  • any chances for promotion - they should tell you at the same time as everyone else and give you just as much chance to apply
  • any changes at work that affect you - for example, if there’s a restructuring

Giving you this sort of information doesn’t use one of your keeping in touch days.   

What to do if you don't get your maternity rights

There are steps you can take if:

  • you don’t get all your maternity rights
  • you’re treated badly because you asked for any of your maternity rights
  • you’re treated badly for any reason connected to your maternity leave

You could also have experienced maternity discrimination if you’ve been treated badly at least partly because you’re pregnant or on maternity leave. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you think your employer has discriminated against you.

If you’re made redundant on maternity leave

Your employer has to decide who to make redundant as if you weren’t on maternity leave. It’s unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination if your maternity leave affects their decision.

It’s worth checking whether your redundancy is fair.

If you’re sacked on maternity leave

It’s unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination if the reasons for sacking you are connected to your maternity leave.

You should check whether you’ve been unfairly dismissed.

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