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Unsure of your equality rights or the law? We can provide advice and assistance for people who feel they have been discriminated against.
 
 

Timing your return to work

After maternity leave

What you need to know

 

Timing your return to work and notice



When do I have to return to work after I have given birth?

If you are entitled to maternity leave you must take at least two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave after the baby is born. If you are a factory worker you are not allowed to work for four weeks after the birth. You are legally entitled to take up to 52 weeks’ maternity leave. It is assumed that you will return at the end of the 52 weeks unless you give eight weeks’ notice of earlier return. The same applies to adoption leave.

Do I have to tell my employer when I am returning to work from maternity leave?

If you intend to take 52 weeks’ maternity leave you do not have to tell your employer the date of your return. If you want to return earlier, you must give your employer eight weeks’ notice before the date you plan to return.
 

Can my employer ask me when I will be returning to work after maternity leave?

An employer can ask when you are going to return to work. It is advisable to provide as much information as you can, but you should not:

  • Be put under pressure to provide information about when you will return before you are obliged to do so.
  • Be told you will be disadvantaged if you do not return early, for example by being told that you will miss out on training or promotion.
  • Be disadvantaged if you do not return earlier than you are obliged.
  • Be disadvantaged if you change your mind about when you will return.
 

Can I change my mind about when to return to work from maternity leave?

Yes. If you want to return to work sooner than 52 weeks, you have to give eight weeks’ notice; you can return after the eight weeks have lapsed. It is advisable to tell your employer the date you plan to return to work as soon as possible to make it easier for both of you to plan.

If you give less than eight weeks’ notice, your employer can decide whether or not they agree to you returning earlier than the end of the required eight weeks’ notice.
 

Can my employer postpone my return to work from maternity leave?

An employer must not postpone your return from maternity leave unless you are returning before 52 weeks’ leave without giving the required notice.

Provided you have given appropriate notice of your return it would be maternity discrimination  to postpone your return to work. 
 

How do I notify my employer about my return to work from maternity leave?

It is advisable to have a discussion with your employer about when you intend to return to work as early as possible. It is important to remember that:

  • Communication helps avoid disputes.
  • If you change your mind once you are on maternity leave and want to return earlier or later, it is best to give your employer as much notice as possible, i.e. more than the required eight weeks’ notice.
  • Changing your return date may impact on your employer’s planning so it is best to try to minimise any disruption by staying in touch and informing them early on.
 

My employer has not contacted me about my return to work from maternity leave. What can I do?

It is advisable to contact your employer in writing, asking for confirmation about your return to work and that you will be returning to the same job. If you are treated unfavourably because of your maternity leave this would be maternity discrimination.
 

My employer has not responded to my request to change my working hours. What should I do?

It is advisable to contact your employer in writing and explain that you need to know what your hours will be so you can plan your return, for example make appropriate childcare arrangements. If you made a formal request to change your working hours, your employer is legally required to deal with that request in a reasonable manner within three months.
 
 
 
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