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Statutory Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Leave

Last updated: 25 March 2022

Statutory Maternity Leave (SML)

You will qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave (SML) if:

  • You’re an employee, not a worker
  • You give your employer the correct notice. You need to let your employer know when the baby is due and when you’d like to start SML at least 15 weeks before the Expected Week of Childbirth. 

Employees are entitled to 12 months SML. The first 26 weeks is known as Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML), the last 26 weeks is known as Additional Maternity Leave (AML).

You must take at least two weeks off work after your baby is born. After that it’s up to you to decide how much leave you wish to take.

You can start SML 11 weeks before your baby is due and you are entitled to continue to accrue benefits such as paid annual leave and bank holidays throughout SML.

Keeping in Touch days

You may work for up to 10 Keeping in Touch days (KIT days) during maternity leave without bringing the leave to an end or losing Statutory Maternity Pay. You are entitled to be paid for KIT days. 

Rights on return to work

If you take up to 26 weeks leave (OML), you are entitled to return to exactly the same job on the same terms and conditions.

If you return to work after 26 weeks (AML), you are entitled to return to exactly the same job but, if your employer can prove that it’s not possible for you to return to the same job, you are entitled to be offered a suitable alternative job on similar terms and conditions.

If you have any issues on your return to work, please contact your MU Regional Office for advice.

Adoption Leave

The qualifying conditions for adoption and paternity leave are the same as for maternity leave. Parents who are adopting a child will need to decide who is going to take adoption leave and who is going to take paternity leave.

Paternity Leave (PL)

Employees can take two weeks’ Paternity Leave (PL) at the time of the birth. PL must be taken within 56 days of the birth

To qualify for PL you must:

  • Have been employed by your employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby is due,
  • Be employed by the same employer up to the birth,
  • Be the biological father, the mother’s husband/wife/partner or the main adopter’s husband/wife/partner,
  • Be responsible for the child and be taking time off to care for the child or support the mother or main adopter,
  • Give the correct notice.
  • You need to let your employer know that you’d like to take PL at least 15 weeks before the baby is due.   

Case study

Florence was employed by a university as a flute teacher. Before taking maternity leave Florence was contracted to teach 20 hours per week.

When Florence returned from her maternity leave she was informed that she would only be teaching 5 hours per week as the demand for her lessons had decreased.

The university had employed the person providing maternity cover for Florence who was now contracted to teach 25 hours per week.

When Florence queried why her maternity cover had been employed and contracted for more hours than her she was told it was so the students had continuity of teaching.

Has Florence been discriminated against? YES!

By law Florence is entitled to return to work to exactly the same job on the same terms and conditions.

Florence’s employer could not justify reducing her hours due to continuity of teaching.

Florence had been treated less favourably than the other teacher due to her maternity leave.

Florence contacted the Musicians’ Union who advised the university that they were in breach of the Equality Act 2010, and that the Union would pursue a discrimination claim unless Florence’s hours were reinstated. Florence’s hours were reinstated and the issue was resolved without any further action. 

Guidance pack on maternity, parental and adoption workplace rights

The parental guidance pack is designed in conjunction with Maternity Action to provide musicians with information about your rights at work as set out under the Equality Act 2010. Learn more about:

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