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Working during pregnancy: maternity leave, paternity leave and maternity pay

This page provides information about maternity leave, paternity leave and maternity pay. The guidance has been developed by the RCOG Trainees’ Committee but is also relevant post-CCT.

Maternity leave

Maternity leave entitlement

Your maternity leave can start at any time after 11 weeks before your baby is due (29th week of pregnancy). You’re entitled to up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. This is divided into 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. You can change your mind about when you start or finish your maternity leave, but you have to give 28 days’ notice of any change of start date and 8 weeks’ notice of you want to change the return date.

Before going on maternity leave

Consider how long you would like to take for maternity leave. Most trainees want a bit of time before their baby arrives to try to relax, maybe visit prospective nurseries and maybe enjoy a last bit of quiet time!

It’s important to get all your paperwork sorted out in advance to make sure you receive your full maternity allowances. You’ll need to inform your human resource department when you want your maternity leave to start and give them your MATB1 certificate.

You’ll also need to inform your LETB and Training Programme Director about your maternity leave plans. They’ll need to find a locum to cover you leave, so try to give as much notice as possible.

Remember that if you’re signed off sick for a pregnancy-related reason at any time after the beginning of the 4th week before your expected week of childbirth (36th week of pregnancy), your maternity leave will be triggered automatically, irrespective of when you intended to start it.

During maternity leave

While on maternity leave you’ll continue to accrue annual leave. However, you may need to discuss this before your maternity leave if you’re changing trusts/employer.

You may want to be kept up to date with developments at work and can do this via ‘keeping in touch’ days. Both you as the employee and your employer can instigate these days. You can have up to 10 ‘keeping in touch’ days without affecting your statutory maternity pay (see below).

Paternity leave

To be entitled to paternity leave, you need to:

  • Have responsibility for the baby’s upbringing, and
  • Be either/both the biological father of the baby and/or the mother’s husband/partner

The above applies to same sex as well as mixed sex couples.

In addition, you’ll need to have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks prior to the 15th week before the baby is due, and continue working for that employer from this time point until the baby is born. Eligible trainees can take either 1 or 2 consecutive weeks. If the pregnancy is a multiple birth, only one period of leave can be taken.

Maternity pay

There are two main types of maternity pay: statutory maternity pay (SMP) and NHS maternity pay. There are different rules on who is eligible for each type.

Statutory maternity pay (SMP)

To be eligible for SMP, you must have been in continuous employment with one employer for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth. SMP is paid for 39 weeks of your maternity leave. If you’re not eligible for SMP, you may be eligible for a maternity allowance (MA) – your employer’s HR department will be able to advise.

NHS maternity pay

To be eligible for NHS maternity pay, you must have 1 year of continuous employment with the NHS (not necessarily the same trust), without a break of more than 3 months, by the time of 11 weeks before your expected week of childbirth.

Under the NHS scheme, you’re entitled to 8 weeks of full pay (less SMP/MA) and 18 weeks of half pay (less SMP/MA), then a further 13 weeks of SMP or MA, leaving 13 weeks of unpaid maternity leave if you wish to take the full 52 weeks of maternity leave.

Your NHS maternity pay is calculated on the basis of your average weekly earnings for the 8 weeks ending with the qualifying week, which is the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth. Gross earnings are taken into consideration, including banding.

It’s important that you agree any changes to your working pattern with your employer, as this may affect your maternity pay. However, if you’ve agreed with your employer that you can stop night work, provided you continue with your normal duties and no alternative work is available to cover the part of your job you’re not doing, you would continue to receive your normal pay. So, if you stop night work in agreement with your employer and occupational health, they could expect you to do other duties instead; as long as you complied with this, your pay wouldn’t be affected.

Find out more

Please see the list of useful resources for further information about working during pregnancy and beyond.

This section also includes:

Always discuss specific issues with your employer. You can also seek individualised advice from the BMA. You can also use the RCOG Trainees’ Committee and your Trainee Representative as a source of support.

Elsewhere on the site

Out of programme (OOP)
Advice on taking time out of the training programme, including for a career break such as maternity leave
Less than full-time (LTFT)
Information about less than full-time (LTFT) training, including how to apply