A Guide to Maternity and Paternity Leave for SMEs

As a small or medium size enterprise, you may be required to offer maternity and paternity leave to your employees, and you may have to pay them either Statutory Maternity Pay, or Statutory Paternity Pay.

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Entitlement to Statutory Maternity Leave

Your employee will have the right to 26 weeks of what is known as Ordinary Maternity Leave, together with 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave. These combined 52 weeks are known collectively as Maternity Leave. As long as your employee gives you the correct notice, you must give them Maternity Leave regardless of the length of their employment, how many hours they work or how much you pay them.

Your employee should tell you 15 weeks in advance of the beginning of the week in which the baby is due. You can ask your employee for a MAT B1, a maternity certificate, which can be obtained only after she has been pregnant for 21 weeks or more.

Your employee can start their Maternity Leave at any point from 11 weeks before the baby is due. Your employee does not have to take their Maternity Leave, but they are subject to Compulsory Maternity Leave of 2 weeks after the baby is born (4 weeks they work in a factory). If their baby is stillborn, or is born alive any point after the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, they are still entitled to Maternity Leave.

Statutory Maternity Pay

If your employee has been with your company for 26 weeks or more by the time they are 15 weeks pregnant (the qualifying week), and earns more than or the same as the lower earnings limit on the Saturday of the qualifying week (currently £107 per week), they will be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay.

Ordinary Paternity Leave

If you have an employee who is due to become a father, they are entitled to 2 weeks Ordinary Paternity Leave, either in a one or two week block. In order for your employee to qualify, they must have been employed by you for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week preceding the start of the week in which the baby is due, or by the end of the week they are notified that they are matched with the given child. They must also either be the biological father of the child, the mother’s husband or partner, the child’s adopter, or the husband or partner of the child’s adopter. Your employee is also likely to be entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay, which would be paid in the same way as you pay their wages.

If the partner of the father is returning to work, the father may be entitled to 26 weeks Additional Paternity Leave. This leave has been granted to fathers with children born after 3 April 2011. It can be taken between 20 weeks and one year following the birth of the child. Additional Statutory Paternity Pay is also paid to those meeting certain criteria, most importantly that their partner has returned to work and that their average weekly earnings meet or exceed the lower earnings limit.

About the Author: Written by James Sheehan, a passionate blogger with past legal experience