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Maternity Leave - Rights for Employees

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Rights for employees

By law, all pregnant employees are entitled to ordinary maternity leave of 26 weeks. Employees who worked for their employer continuously for at least 12 months are also entitled to an additional maternity leave. Employees may have additional leave rights under their contracts. Employees have the right to return to work at the end of their maternity leave. If refused, or otherwise treated unfavourably, they may also have additional claims for unfair dismissal and sex discrimination.

Prescribed procedure

To take maternity leave, you must follow a prescribed procedure. You will have to inform your employer of your pregnancy, the expected week of birth, the date on which you would like to start your maternity leave and, if you are absent from work for a pregnancy-related reason, the reason for your absence.

You cannot start your maternity leave before the beginning of the eleventh week before the expected week of birth, unless you gave birth earlier. You may start your leave before the notified date if you are absent from work for a pregnancy-related reason.

Maternity leave periods

By law, there are two maternity leave periods:

Ordinary maternity leave. This lasts for 26 weeks. You have the right to return to your old job at the end of your leave on terms and conditions no less favourable than would have applied if you had not been absent on leave, provided you give your employer at least 28 daysí notice. During your leave, you are entitled to your contractual benefits, except for remuneration. You are likely to be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).

Additional maternity leave. This is available if you have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks at the beginning of the 14th week before the expected week of birth. It starts at the end of the ordinary maternity leave and can last for up to an additional 26 weeks. Your contract of employment continues during the leave period and some contractual benefits and obligations remain in force. You have to give your employer at least 28 daysí notice if you want to return to work. You have the right to return to your old job or to similar job on no less favourable terms.

If you also have a right to take maternity leave under your contract, you may take advantage of only the more favourable of your rights.

Remedies

If your employer breaches any of your maternity rights, or otherwise treats you unfairly because you are pregnant, you are likely to have a sex discrimination claim. In addition, if you are not allowed to return to work at the end of your maternity leave, you will be treated as having been dismissed and may have a claim for automatic unfair dismissal. If you are made redundant whilst on leave, you may also have a claim for redundancy payment.

For unfair dismissal and sex discrimination, the most common remedy is compensation. Compensation for sex discrimination has no upper cap but will be limited to an amount which will put you, as far as possible, in the position you would have been in had you not been discriminated against.

Compensation for unfair dismissal is divided into a basic award and a compensatory award. The compensatory award depends on your actual losses and is capped. You have to take reasonable steps to minimise your losses, for example, to look for another job.

If your employer breached the terms of a contractual leave policy, you may also have claim for breach of contract.

Complaints

You should make your complaints at the employment tribunal which is local to where you work (or worked). Sex discrimination, unfair dismissal and breach of contract claims must normally be presented within 3 months of the effective date of termination. A claim for redundancy payment has to be made within 6 months of the relevant date. Only in truly exceptional circumstances, a tribunal may allow you to make a complaint out of time. You may, as an alternative, bring a breach of contract claim in the county or high court, within six years of the effective date of termination.


About the Author

mfg Solicitors Bromsgrove West Midlands is a dynamic firm of legal experts offering clients the highest level of service and support. If you would like to find out more about the services that we provide, please visit our website www.mfgsolicitors.com to arrange a meeting.


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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-04-08 09:49:28 in Employee Articles

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