A new mother is bound to be nervous about returning to work from maternity leave. But that’s where you come in.

It’s your job to support her in getting back to work. And as part of that, help her to understand her returning to work maternity leave rights.

Here’s what you should know about your staff’s rights and what the law says.

Coming back to the same job

This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. But your employee has a right to return to the same job she had before her maternity leave, if she returns within six months of the start of her leave.

That means the same terms of employment and responsibilities as before—unless it’s unpractical to do so. For example, she might not be able to work night shifts anymore.

In this case, it’s up to you to offer her a similar job. And it should come with terms and conditions that are as good as her previous role.

Holidays during maternity leave

Your employee’s holiday entitlement still builds up while she’s on maternity leave—so make sure she knows how many days she’s accrued.

She may want to add these extra holidays to the end of her maternity leave, or carry them over into the next holiday year.

Flexible working hours for mothers

Your employee has a right to ask for flexible working if she’s worked for you for at least 26 weeks (including maternity leave).

She might request to work full-time but partly from home, finish her shift earlier or reduce her hours.

If you have to reject a flexible working request, you should be able to justify your decision. Otherwise, your employee could claim indirect discrimination because of her sex and take you to an employment tribunal.

Pay increase during maternity leave

Did you give all your staff a boost in pay? If so, your employee has a right to receive the same pay increase as her co-workers.

The same goes for any improvements you made to their job terms and conditions. If you made these while she was on leave, they should apply to her once she returns to work.

Unpaid parental leave

If your employee has worked at your company for longer than one year, she can take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave until her child’s 18th birthday.

She can use this leave if she needs to take her child to the doctor or look at potential schools. Want to know more? Find out about parental leave.

Breastfeeding at work

Your employee might decide to continue breastfeeding when returning to work from maternity leave, and you shouldn’t stop her.

By law, you need to offer her suitable facilities where she can rest or lie down. But you don’t have to provide her with a place to breastfeed or express milk.

With that said, it’s good practice to provide a clean and private room for her. This will help show that you support breastfeeding at work and could encourage her to return sooner.

Resigning after maternity leave

There’s a chance that your employee will finish maternity leave and not want to return to work. But you shouldn’t take it personally.

She might want to spend more time with her child or work fewer hours. And as long as she gives you the amount of notice in her contract, you’ll have time to look for a replacement.

Don’t worry though. Most employees look forward to returning to work from maternity leave. And they’ll be more likely to come back if you show you’re supportive of working mothers and their rights.

Struggling to track sickness and working hours?

BrightHR can help. Use our web and mobile apps to manage on the go

Book your demo of BrightHR

See our packages

Want articles like this directly to your inbox?

Sign up to our newsletter

Related articles

Replacing employees on maternity leave

Employee maternity leave entitlement

Occupational maternity pay

Zero hours contract maternity pay

Letter template

256 articles