Your maternity and paternity rights

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Find out what your rights to maternity and paternity are when at work or school.

Who can get maternity or paternity leave?

If you're an employee, you're entitled to maternity leave. If you're a worker, you aren't. This can be really confusing, as they both sound similar, but a worker is usually someone who is either on a zero hours contract, who work for an agency or are a casual worker. If you're unsure, contact Citizens Advice. 

It's the same for paternity leave – but with some added details. You must have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the ‘qualifying week’ (15 weeks before the due date). You must either be the biological father of the child, or be the partner of the baby's mother (you don’t have to be married). Or you must be responsible for bringing up the child and wish to take time off to care for the child or support the mother.

How do you get maternity/paternity leave ?

You need to let your employer know that you're pregnant and want to take maternity leave at least 15 weeks before the week when you're baby is due. You also need to let them know when you want your maternity leave to start and finish, but you can change these dates later. You should tell your employer this in writing so you have a record of it to go back to.

Your employer can ask to see a medical certificate, such as your ‘MATB1’ form. You’ll get this at an antenatal appointment after your 20-week scan. 

For paternity leave you need to tell you employer at least 15 weeks before the baby is due: when the baby is due, when you want to leave to start (you can't take leave before the baby is born), and if you want one of two weeks leave.

How long can I take maternity/paternity leave for?

Your maternity leave will last for a year unless you tell your employer that you would like to come back to work earlier than that.  Maternity leave can't last more than a year however.

The shortest maternity leave you can take is 2 weeks - this goes up to 4 weeks if you work in a factory.

For paternity leave, you're entitled to one of two weeks of leave – but you can't take this before the baby is born. You also have to take the leave in a block of one of two weeks.

You can take unpaid leave to accompany a pregnant woman to 2 antenatal appointments. You can take up to 6 and a half hours per appointment, but your employer can choose to give you longer.

What if I'm at school?

The first thing to do is let the school office know that you're pregnant, so they can help support you as best as possible.

Your school will want to keep you in school as much as possible. This is to make sure you don't miss any education, which is really important! It's also so you can keep seeing your friends and you don't feel isolated.

It is against the law to discriminate against a student because they're pregnant or have had a baby within the previous 26 weeks. For example, you should not be prevented from attending school because you're pregnant.

The school should let you go to doctor appointments and give you time off if you're unwell during your pregnancy. If it becomes too much to make the daily journey to school, the school will look into alternative forms of education (like home schooling).

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