Your working rights after maternity leave

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So you’ve decided you want (or need) to go back to work after your maternity leave. What are your rights? When can you go back to work after maternity leave? And are you allowed to return to the same position?

When can you return to work after maternity leave?

You can return to work any time after two weeks after having your baby (four weeks if you work in a factory). Statutory Maternity Leave in the UK is 52 weeks, and is made up of:

  • 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave.
  • 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave.

If you want to change the date you return to work after maternity leave you need to give your employer at least eight weeks’ notice.

Working while you’re on maternity leave

You don’t have to wait until you’re ready to return to work full time to go back into the office. You’re allowed to work up to 10 days during your maternity leave. These are called ‘keeping in touch days’ and are completely optional, which means both you and your employer need to agree to them.

Your right to return to your old job

If you return to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave you have the right to return to your old job. If you choose to take Additional Maternity Leave you have the right to return to your old job or, if it’s not possible to do so, to a similar one. A similar job is one that has the same or better terms and conditions. If you choose not to accept the similar job your employer can take this as your resignation.

What happens if you don’t want to return to your old job?

If, after maternity leave, you decide that you don’t want to go back to your old job you need to resign in the normal way. You won’t need to repay your Statutory Maternity Pay, but if you have received any contractual maternity pay you should check your contract to find out whether you will need to repay it.

Your right to ask for flexible work

Many women do choose to return to work after maternity leave, but change their arrangements by asking for flexible working. As a working mum you have the legal right to ask for flexible work arrangements, and your employer must properly consider your request.

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