Do you know your rights as a working mother?


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Do you know your rights as a working mother?

As an expectant or recent mother you may be concerned about managing the responsibilities of caring for a new born child without compromising your career. Here we summarise the key employment law rights for mothers as well as future legal developments.

Maternity Leave

If you are an employee you can take a total of 52 weeks maternity leave. This includes 26 weeks “ordinary” leave and 26 weeks “additional leave”. Your maternity leave can start up to 11 weeks before the week of your due date.

During maternity leave you continue to build up entitlements to holiday leave and pay rises. If you return to work within ordinary maternity leave you are entitled to continue in the same role. However, if you take additional maternity leave, your employer can move you into a similar role (although the terms and conditions of your employment must be the same as before).

You may be eligible for statutory maternity pay, subject to a somewhat convoluted requirement (you must have worked for at least 26 weeks up to the 15th week before the week of your due date). Statutory maternity pay is 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks; and £135.45 thereafter (assuming this is less).  

Parental Leave

If you have worked for your employer for more than a year, you are entitled to 13 weeks’ parental leave. This is to allow for ongoing childcare responsibilities and can be can taken any time before your child’s fifth birthday.

Flexible Working

As a mother, you have the right to make a statutory request for flexible working. The purpose of flexible working is to allow you to combine work commitments and childcare. Common arrangements include working from home; staggered hours; flexitime; job sharing; and part-time.

To make a statutory request you must set out in writing your proposed arrangements, the impact on the business and how any problems could be avoided.

Your employer must have a meeting with you to discuss the request and can only refuse it if they have a genuine commercial reason. You can appeal the decision if there was relevant information that your employer did not take into account, but not because you disagree with their decision.

Future Changes

There are several important changes to employment law coming up in the next few years that will affect mothers’ rights:
- Due to an EU Directive, the right to parental leave will be extended in March 2013 from 13 to 18 weeks, to be taken up to the child’s 18th birthday.
- In 2014 the government plans to extend the right to make a statutory request for flexible working to all employees (for example, friends and family who want to help you with childcare).
- In 2015 the current rules on maternity and paternity leave will be replaced by a new system allowing mother and fathers to share 12 months of parental leave between them.

If you need more information on maternity rights, bodies that may be able to assist include the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). If you are considering taking legal action it is always advisable to contact an employment solicitor. 

If you would like to learn more about Maternity/Paternity leave and flexible working, visit Contact Law by clicking the logo:

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