Maternity pay and leave

Entitlements to maternity leave and pay for teachers in schools and colleges. You can start your maternity leave at any time from 11 weeks before the week your baby is due.

What are my entitlements?

Your entitlements to maternity leave and pay depend largely on:

  • whether the Burgundy Book scheme is part of your contract of employment
  • whether there is a local agreement applying to you which improves on what is offered to teachers under the national agreement
  • whether you have the required length of ‘continuous employment’ to qualify for these entitlements. This may also be referred to as ‘continuous service’.

Occupational maternity pay

To qualify for occupational maternity pay in the Burgundy Book, your workplace must be covered by the Burgundy Book and you must have been employed for at least one year and 11 weeks with one or more local authority by the expected week of childbirth.

Occupational maternity pay is also paid for a continuous period of up to 39 weeks.

For the first four weeks, you will be paid at 100 per cent of salary if eligible. Weeks 5-6 are paid at 90 per cent of salary if eligible, and weeks 7-18 at 50 per cent of salary plus the standard statutory maternity pay rate of £184.03. per week. The remaining 21 weeks are paid at the standard statutory maternity pay rate.

Statutory maternity pay (SMP)

To qualify for SMP, you must have worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week the baby is due. To find the 15th week, look on a calendar for the Sunday before your baby is due, or the day it is due if that is a Sunday, and count back 15 Sundays from there. 

You must have worked at least 26 weeks with your employer by the end of that week in order to qualify for SMP. You must still be employed in that job in the 15th week before the baby is due and you must earn at least £123.00 (from April 2023) per week on average during the eight weeks before the 15th week. You do not lose your entitlement to SMP if you leave employment after the 15th week or do not intend to return to work.

Rate of SMP

For the first six weeks you get 90 per cent of your average pay. After that you get the basic rate of SMP, which, at the date of publication, is £151.97 per week, for up to 33 weeks. SMP is only payable when you are away from work so if you work at any time during your maternity leave you will not get SMP for that week. The exception to this is the introduction of keeping in touch (KIT) days, which allow women to work for up to ten days without bringing their maternity leave to an end or losing SMP or maternity allowance.

Period of payment

SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks. It is for you to decide how many weeks you wish to claim. The earliest week that you can get SMP is the 11th week before the birth. If your baby is stillborn from week 16 before the expected date of childbirth, you can now get SMP. You are entitled to 39 weeks’ maternity pay whenever you decide to leave work. If you have a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before the baby is due and this triggers your maternity leave, you will not be able to claim statutory sick pay (SSP).

If your illness is not pregnancy-related, you can claim SSP until your maternity leave and pay start.

How to claim

To claim SMP, you may apply at the same time that you give notice to your employer of your pregnancy and your intention to take maternity leave. This would be by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of the birth. If you have not already requested SMP, you may write to your employer at least 28 days before you stop work, asking that you be paid it. 

If you have not already done so, you must send them a copy of your maternity certificate, form MAT B1, which your GP or midwife will have given you. Under the Burgundy Book scheme, the first 18 weeks’ pay includes SMP and occupational maternity pay, the SMP being claimed on your behalf by your employer. If you were entitled to occupational maternity pay it would not be necessary for you to make any claim apart from informing your employer that you wished to receive SMP when giving notification of absence.

Starting your maternity leave

The statutory provisions provide that notification of pregnancy should be given to ‘the employer’ according to arrangements determined by the employer. You should check, in advance, the arrangements for notification applying in your school or college. The NEU believes that the notification requirement is satisfied if the notification is given by the due date to your head teacher or principal.

You are required to inform your employer no later than the end of the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth or, exceptionally, as soon as you reasonably can:

  • that you are pregnant
  • the date of your expected week of childbirth and, if requested, a midwife or doctor’s certificate
  • the date on which you intend your ordinary maternity leave to commence.

The notification needs to be in writing if requested by your employer. It is preferable that you make a written notification for the purpose of keeping a record. It is also advisable to inform your employer of your pregnancy as soon as you feel comfortable doing so. Once you have done so, your period of protection from detriment starts.

Your midwife or GP will give you a MAT B1 form when you are about six months’ pregnant. You should be prepared to produce this to confirm your pregnancy. You can vary your leave start date by giving your employer 28 days' notice.

Date of starting maternity leave

You can start your maternity leave at any time from 11 weeks before the week your baby is due. It is up to you to decide and you can work up until the week of childbirth.

Your SMP will start on the same day as your maternity leave, ie the date notified to the employer. The only exception is if you have a pregnancy-related illness during the last four weeks of your pregnancy. In this case, your maternity leave will be automatically triggered.

Where the baby is born before the maternity leave is due to commence, the day following the date of the birth will be regarded as the first day of maternity leave and pay. It is a legal requirement that you do not work for two weeks following the date of childbirth. During the ordinary maternity leave period, all your contractual rights, except your normal pay, will continue as if you were not absent from work.

Your employer must, within 28 days of receiving notice of your intention to take maternity leave, give you written notice of the date that your maternity leave entitlement will end, ie the end of 52 weeks.

During your pregnancy

These are some important milestones in relation to your maternity rights.

Early weeks

  • Check whether you are entitled to the Burgundy Book maternity scheme, the statutory scheme, or both. Establish the length of your continuous service. As soon as you have notified your employer, in writing, of your pregnancy, your employer must assess any specific risks to your condition and take appropriate steps to eliminate them. Once your employer knows you are pregnant, if you are sacked for a reason connected with your pregnancy, it will automatically be unfair dismissal. You are entitled to paid time off to go to antenatal appointments. This includes relaxation and parentcraft classes. Except in the case of a first appointment, be prepared to provide an appointment card.

Week 24

  • If your baby is stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy, all maternity rights apply in full. You are also entitled to parental bereavement leave.  

Week 25

  • To gain entitlement to SMP, you must have worked for your current employer for 26 continuous weeks by the end of this week. The end of this week is the deadline for giving notice that you are pregnant, letting your employer know your expected week of childbirth, and giving written notice of the date on which you intend to start your maternity leave. Teachers taking leave under the Burgundy Book scheme must declare that they intend to return to work at the end of the period of maternity leave.

Week 29

  • This is the earliest you can begin your maternity leave.

Week 36

  • You can choose when to start your maternity leave but, if you are off sick for a pregnancy-related reason in the last four weeks of pregnancy, your employer will require you to begin your maternity leave. If your baby is born early, your maternity leave and pay starts on the following day.

After your baby is born

Here are some important things to remember regarding your maternity rights after your baby is born.

Week of childbirth

  • Don’t forget to claim child benefit. You must put in a claim within three months of the birth for it to be paid from the date of birth.

During your post-natal maternity leave

  • You only need to give notice of your return to work if you are returning earlier than at the end of the leave to which you are entitled. If you wish to return to work early, you must give your employer 21 days' written notice, if you are entitled to the Burgundy Book provisions, or eight weeks’ written notice if you are only entitled to the statutory provisions.

Week 53

  • You must return at the beginning of this week. Your employer should have notified you of the exact date within 28 days of receiving your notification of pregnancy and start date of leave. If you are ill on the date of your return from maternity leave, you should inform your school, as soon as possible, and submit a medical certificate from your doctor.

Once you are back at work

  • To retain maternity pay received under the Burgundy Book scheme, you are required to complete at least 13 weeks’ full time service, or its part-time equivalent, on your return to work. If you were working part-time prior to maternity leave, you are required to complete 13 weeks’ part-time service. This period includes both term-time and school holidays. There is no need to return to work if you claimed SMP only and there is no need to repay SMP if you do not return for 13 weeks.

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