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Getting time off work may seem like the dream – until you’re surrounded by nappies! Here’s how you and your partner could benefit from the various entitlements on offer

You’ve stocked up on all the baby essentials, painted the nursery and bought all the books. But if you’re a working parent-to-be, there are some other important things to consider: maternity leave and Shared Parental Leave.

What is maternity leave and how much do I get?

Luckily, in the UK, maternity leave is a right to all mothers in employment. This means no matter what your job is, how long you’ve been doing it or how many hours you work, you are guaranteed maternity leave. All you have to do is give your employer the correct notice – which is currently at least 15 weeks before your due date.

In terms of actual time off, there are two categories of maternity leave: ordinary and additional leave – both lasting 26 weeks, and making up the consecutive 52 weeks (one year) of total statutory leave. You don’t have to take the full 52 weeks, but you do have to take two to four weeks off after the birth depending on your profession. 

 What is Shared Parental Leave and how does it work?

To help with growing families both mums and dads can enjoy the benefits of maternity leave rights. Provided you’re eligible, the scheme allows up to 50 weeks of maternity leave to be shared between both parents – so your family and work-life balance can be individually tailored. To see if you could share the leave, visit gov.uk.

The first thing to do is to talk to your partner and see if it is right for you as a couple. Benefits include both of you playing an active role in bringing up your baby, as well as treating both of your careers with equal importance. For a lot of couples, sharing the responsibility helps them feel more empathy with the other parent, whether they’re the one stuck at work all day or the one at home craving some grown-up conversation. You’ll soon see that both options have their pros and cons… Ultimately, it’s a chance to share the joy of those early days with your new baby.

Next, discuss your plans with your employer. You’ll need to have started working for them at around the same time as the mother became pregnant in order to claim. The good news is, if you are eligible for Shared Parental Leave, you have a legal right to take it. When you do return to work, remember that you have a right to request flexible working too.

What about maternity pay?

Of course, it’s not all about how much time you have with your baby – for most families, money is also a major concern. While you can make savings on your weekly shop, babies and everything that goes with them will certainly put an extra strain on your finances. Fortunately, you may also be eligible to Statutory Maternity Pay to help you along.

If you don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay – for example if you’re self-employed or changed jobs during your pregnancy – you may still be entitled to Maternity Allowance. Here’s some more detail around maternity pay and allowance.

What is Shared Parental Pay?

Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) may help your money go a little further in the first year of having a baby. Depending on your circumstances ShPP may help balance your finances especially if you decide to take Shared Parental Leave too.

You must both qualify for Statutory Maternity, Paternity or Adoption Pay, allowing the higher earner to go back to work if this suits your family. There are other criteria too. If you want to see if you are eligible, check out the page on Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

I’m confused! How can I work out what I’m allowed?

If you’re struggling to work out what you are entitled to, this handy Government calculator has the answers.

Figures are correct as of March 2018. For the latest updates, see the government’s information on Shared Parental Leave.

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