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Taking maternity leave as an employee

How we can advise and support you if you are a member of staff expecting a baby.

This web page provides guidance only and should be read in conjunction with the maternity policy.

Before you go on maternity leave

Letting your manager and HR know

It's important to notify your manager at an early stage of your pregnancy, so they can begin planning for the expected absence and undertake a risk assessment. You and your manager can agree how to communicate your pregnancy more widely.

What you need to do

You should submit the following to your manager and HR Advisor:

  • the maternity notification form with your manager’s signature (by no later than the end of the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth)

  • Your MATB1 form, which you will receive directly from your midwife

Once your HR Advisor has received this information, they will write to you to confirm your maternity leave arrangements. They will also liaise with payroll who will confirm your pay during maternity leave.

If you're on a fixed term contract and your contract is due to expire while you are on maternity leave (or prior to the completion of three months’ work on return), you should contact your manager and HR Advisor for guidance before your contract end date.

Absences before your maternity leave begins

Antenatal care

You are entitled to reasonable paid time of work to attend antenatal appointments as recommended by your doctor or midwife. Time off will be at full pay and you won’t need to make up the hours. You should give your manager as much notice as possible of your appointments.

Your husband/civil partner/partner also has the right to unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments.

Falling ill

If you are ill with a pregnancy related illness after the beginning of the 4th week before the expected birth date, your maternity leave will start automatically the day after your first day of absence. Please contact your HR Advisor as well as your manager if this is the case. You do not qualify for sick pay whilst on maternity leave.

If things don’t go according to plan

If your baby arrives before your maternity leave is due to start, your maternity leave will begin automatically on the day after the birth. If this happens, you should contact your manager and HR Advisor as soon as possible and confirm the actual birth date in writing. Your HR Advisor will write to you to confirm the new end date of your maternity leave.

In the very unfortunate event that you suffer a stillbirth (from 24 weeks onwards), or if your baby dies after being born, you are entitled to take your full period of maternity leave and pay. If you suffer a miscarriage before the 24th week, you will be able to take a period of sick leave under your normal contractual arrangements, as directed by your doctor. In either of these situations, please consider talking confidentially with your line manager or HR Advisor about how they can help you at this time. This could include engaging with NHS support services. In addition, there is also emotional and counselling support available through both the University's Employee Assistance Programme (during office hours) and Education Support Partnership (which operates a 24/7 service, 365 days per year).

Other things to consider

Annual leave

You will continue to accrue annual leave, bank/statutory holidays and discretionary days during your maternity leave in accordance with your leave entitlement within your contract of employment. You can calculate your entitlement to annual leave by using the holiday calculator.

You should plan your annual leave around your maternity leave with your manager. Annual leave can be taken at any time (outside of the maternity leave period), including directly before or after your maternity leave period.

Where possible you should take your annual leave in the year it is accrued. Where this is not possible, you can carry forward your untaken annual leave into the next leave year. You should discuss this with your manager and HR advisor if this is the case.


You may be eligible for a Sure Start maternity grant which is government scheme for a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a child.

The government also operates a Tax Free Childcare scheme, which is a scheme to help towards the cost of childcare for working families. If you already use childcare vouchers at the same time as Tax-Free Childcare, over time Tax-Free Childcare will replace childcare vouchers and childcare arranged directly by the University.

During your maternity leave


During your maternity leave the University will maintain all contractual rights except for pay.

There are two types of maternity pay.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

We pay this money to you on behalf of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for up to 39 weeks.

SMP is paid as follows:

  • the first six weeks of SMP are paid at the higher SMP rate, which is 90% of earnings before tax

  • the next 33 weeks are paid at the lower SMP rate or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)

  • the remaining 13 weeks are unpaid leave

You need to have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with the University up to the 'qualifying week' (the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth) in order to receive SMP from the University. Your average weekly earnings in the eight weeks up to and including the qualifying week must also be at least equivalent to the lower earnings limit for Class 1 National Insurance Contributions. You can check your entitlement to SMP via the government maternity calculator.

Occupational Maternity Pay (OMP)

This is additional maternity pay, which the University will pay you if you've been continuously employed here for at least 52 weeks at your expected week of childbirth. You must also return to work following your maternity leave for at least three months. Please note, if you have received OMP and you choose not to return for three months following your maternity leave, you will need to repay the OMP.

OMP is paid as follows:

  • the first eight weeks of SMP will be topped up to full pay

  • the next 18 weeks OMP will be paid at half pay in addition to SMP (up to a maximum of full pay)

  • the next 13 weeks will be paid at the lower SMP rate or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)

  • the remaining 13 weeks are unpaid leave

Alternatively, you can choose to take 17 weeks at full pay. You would not be entitled to half pay if you choose this option. The remaining 22 weeks of paid leave will be at the lower SMP rate or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

If you do not qualify for SMP or OMP

If you are not entitled to SMP you may still qualify for Maternity Allowance, which is available through Job Centre Plus. If this is the case, Payroll will return your MATB1 form and provide you with an SMP1 exclusion form so you can apply for Maternity Allowance.


If you're a member of USS or LGPS, your contributions will be maintained in full for any period you are in receipt of pay − whether contractual or SMP. Any unpaid maternity leave will be treated as suspended membership and will not count as pensionable service. Contact the Pensions Team for further information.

Annual increments

Where applicable, you will be entitled to receive the normal annual increment on your pay scale in accordance with your contract of employment. This will take effect from your normal incremental date.

Continuous service

All periods of time taken off work as maternity leave count as continuous service when calculating any service-related statutory rights.

Contact during your maternity leave

It's important you keep up-to-date with any developments at work. You should discuss arrangements for reasonable contact during your maternity leave with your manager.

You can also take up to 10 days paid work before your maternity leave ends, pro rata for part time staff. These are called Keeping in Touch (KIT) days. You can use a KIT day at any stage from the first two weeks after the birth. If you use a KIT day whilst on full pay, no additional payment will be made. If you work a KIT day whilst on half pay or SMP only, your pay will be ‘topped up’ so you receive full pay for the hours you worked. The optimum time to take KIT days is when you are on zero pay.

If you work for less than a full day, this will count as one KIT day, although payment will be for the actual hours worked. KIT days are optional and can only take place by agreement between both you and your manager. You should complete the KIT days form and submit this to payroll. It is recommended that you and your manager keep copies of your KIT day forms, so you can keep track of the days taken.

After your maternity leave

Return to work

You should return to work after 52 weeks maternity leave, unless you have confirmed an earlier return date.

If you return to work within the first 26 weeks of your maternity leave, you have the right to return to the same post. If you return after 26 weeks, you will normally return to the same post. If this is not feasible, you are entitled to return to a post on the same terms and conditions, which applied before your maternity leave commenced.

Your manager will seek to agree a return to work plan with you in advance of your return date.

Returning earlier than expected

If you decide to return to work earlier than you had initially indicated, you should give your manager and HR Advisor at least eight weeks’ notice in writing of the new return date. By not doing so, the University could decide to postpone your return for up to eight weeks or until your maternity leave entitlement comes to an end.

Health and Wellbeing

A welfare room for expectant or nursing employees is available in Wessex House 3.47a. This room contains a bed to aid relaxation and includes fridge for milk to be expressed and stored. It is accessed on a first come, first served basis. If you wish to use the room, please contact the SHEW team.

Family-friendly working

  • Flexible working − if you're considering changing your working pattern or hours of work on return from maternity leave details, you can make a request via the flexible working policy.

  • Westwood nursery – you may wish to apply for a place at the University’s campus-based nursery. If you secure a place, you'll also be eligible to join a salary sacrifice scheme NurseryPlus.

Choosing not to return to work

If you decide not to return to work at the end of your maternity leave, you should give your Manager written notice as per your contract before your maternity leave ends and follow the University leaver guidance.

Further information

Please contact your HR Advisor for further guidance.

Associated policies include:

Document control

Date of last review: November 2018


If you have any questions, please contact your HR Advisor.

HR Advisory Team

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