Contractual rights, obligations and benefits during maternity leave
(annual leave, pension, sick pay, salary sacrifice & childcare vouchers)
Does my contract of employment continue during maternity leave so that I have continuous service?
Yes, unless you are dismissed, resign or a fixed term contract comes to an end without being renewed, in which case you will no longer be employed.
Any period of maternity leave must be treated as though you were working for the purpose of calculating your length of service for any service related benefits, redundancy payments or for claiming unfair dismissal.
Do the benefits of my contract of employment continue during maternity leave?
Yes. Benefits and obligations under the contract must continue during maternity leave, except for normal pay and benefits provided exclusively for business use (for example a company car). Examples of benefits your employer must continue to provide include:
- Pension contributions during the paid period; the employer contributions are based on normal pay, but yours are based on maternity pay.
- Participation in share ownership scheme.
- Membership of health club.
- Reimbursement of professional subscriptions.
- Health and life insurance.
- Use of company car, unless it is for business use only.
- Use of mobile phone, laptop unless it is for business use only.
- The benefit of a pay rise.
Do my employer’s policies and procedures still apply to me when I am on maternity leave?
You and your employer are bound by your contract of employment. This means that all policies and procedures apply as they would if you were not on maternity leave, unless your employer needs to make special provision to remove any disadvantage because of your maternity leave. For example, you should not have to attend a disciplinary meeting or interview soon after giving birth.
Will payments towards my pension change while I am on maternity leave?
There may be some changes. Your contributions are based on your actual income, whether it is statutory or contractual maternity pay.
Your employer’s contributions are based on the pay you would have received if you were not on maternity leave. Your employer is legally required to continue paying towards your pension for at least the paid part of maternity leave.
It is advisable to check the terms of your pension as some schemes allow you to take a payment holiday from your contributions for the duration of your maternity leave.
Am I entitled to sick pay if I am sick during my maternity leave?
No. Your employer is not legally required to pay statutory sick pay or contractual sick pay during maternity leave. Once you have returned to work you are entitled to sick pay in the same way as any other employee.
Will my entitlement to childcare vouchers change while I am on maternity leave?
This may depend on your employer’s childcare voucher scheme.
If your employer’s scheme operates through salary sacrifice your employer may not have to subsidise childcare vouchers during your maternity leave. You should speak to your employer about this.
If your employer provides childcare vouchers in addition to your salary, the provision of childcare vouchers counts as a “benefit” and should continue during maternity leave.
Can I take paid annual leave while I am on maternity leave?
No. You cannot take maternity leave and annual leave at the same time. If you want to take paid annual leave you must bring your maternity leave to an end.
Am I entitled to build up annual leave during my maternity leave?
Yes. You are entitled to build up annual leave and take it outside your maternity leave period. The minimum annual leave is 28 days including bank holidays (pro-rated if you are part-time), and any extra annual leave provided for under your contract of employment. You should discuss with your employer when this can be taken, i.e. before or after your maternity leave.
Can I carry over annual leave from the previous year if I am on maternity leave?
You must be allowed to carry over any unused part of your statutory leave entitlement of 28 days (which includes bank holidays). The law is not clear if your contract says you are entitled to more than 28 days (including bank holidays) and you should take advice if that applies to you.
Can I take accrued annual leave one or two days a week to have a phased return to work?
Yes, you can take your accrued annual leave one or two days a week if your employer agrees. This may also be a good way of settling back into work. However, most contracts require that the employer must agree the period and timing of annual leave so if it does not work for the business, your employer could refuse.