Legislation overview

A very wide range of legislation governs maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay. Most of the relevant legislation can be found consolidated into the Employment Rights Act 1996 or the Employment Relations Act 1999. However, the Employment Act 2002, Work and Families Act 2006, the Children and Families Act 2014 and numerous regulations have also brought in some significant changes to the law in this area. Some of the details of the rights and principles contained in the main Acts are to be found in the various implementing regulations.

The following statutes and Regulations are now in force:

  • The Statutory Maternity Pay (General) Regulations 1986 (SI 1986/1960) - as amended by The Social Security, Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Sick Pay (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2690)
  • Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 - as amended, deals with maternity pay
  • Social Security Administrations Act 1992
  • Employment Rights Act 1996
  • Employment Relations Act 1999
  • The Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3312)
  • Employment Act 2002
  • The Maternity and Parental Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2789)
  • The Paternity and Adoption Leave Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2788)
  • The Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay (Administration) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2820)
  • The Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay (Weekly Rates) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2818)
  • The Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay (General) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2822)
  • The Social Security (Paternity and Adoption) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2689)
  • The Statutory Maternity Pay (Compensation of Employers) Amendment Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/225)
  • The Statutory Maternity Pay (Compensation of Employers) Amendment Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/672)
  • The Paternity and Adoption Leave (Adoption from Overseas) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/921)
  • The Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/488)
  • The Pensions Act 2004 s.265
  • The Civil Partnership Act 2004
  • The Civil Partnership Act (Amendments to Subordinate Legislation) Order 2005 (SI 2005/2114)
  • Work and Families Act 2006
  • The Maternity Leave and Parental Leave etc and the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/2014)
  • The Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay (General) and the Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay (Weekly Rates) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/2236)
  • The Statutory Maternity Pay, Social Security (Overlapping Benefits) (Amendment) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/2379)
  • The Maternity and Parental Leave etc. and the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2008(SI 2008/1966)
  • The Social Security Benefits Uprating Order 2009 (SI 2009/497)
  • The Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (General) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/156)
  • The Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/155)
  • The Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (Adoptions from Overseas) Regulations 2010 - due to come into force on 9 April 2010
  • The Additional Paternity Leave (Adoptions from Overseas) Regulations 2010 - due to come into force on 9 April 2010
  • The Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (Weekly Rates) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1060)
  • The Employment Rights Act 1996 (Application of Section 80BB to Adoptions from Overseas) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1058)
  • Children and Families Act 2014
  • Statutory Shared Parental Pay (General) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3051)
  • Shared Parental Leave Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3050)
  • Maternity and Adoption Leave (Curtailment of Statutory Rights to Leave) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3052)
  • Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay (Curtailment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3054)
  • Maternity Allowance (Curtailment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3053)
  • Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2112)
  • Employment Rights Act 1996 (Application of Sections 75A, 75B, 75G, 75H, 80A and 80B to Parental Order Cases) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3095)
  • Paternity, Adoption and Shared Parental Leave (Parental Order Cases) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3097)
  • Statutory Shared Parental Pay (Parental Order Cases) Regulations 2014) (SI 2014/3096)
  • Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2014) (SI 2014/3206) - coming into force 5 April 2015
  • Employment Rights Act 1996 (Application of Sections 75G and 75H to Adoptions from Overseas) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3091) - coming into force on 5 April 2015
  • Shared Parental Leave and Paternity and Adoption Leave (Adoptions from Overseas) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3092) - coming into force on 5 April 2015
  • Statutory Shared Parental Pay (Adoption from Overseas) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3093) - coming into force on 5 April 2015.

The GOV.UK website provides guidance and interactive tools on maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay.

In Northern Ireland, information on maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay is available on the nidirect website.

Terminology

The terminology used in this area of employment law may cause confusion. The following terms are used in these Q&As:

  • Right to request flexible working - refers to the right to formally request more flexible working arrangements.

  • Unpaid parental leave - generally refers to the current right of up to 18 weeks (13 weeks before March 2013) extra unpaid leave which is available in addition to the primary paid leave available to parents. For information on parental leave see our Parental rights and family-friendly provisions Q&As.

  • EWC - Expected week of childbirth/week the baby is due. The EWC is a key date that determines maternity rights. This is basically the week in which the child is expected to be born. A midwife or GP will usually calculate the due date. The week of expected childbirth is taken as starting from a Sunday. Under previous legislation the expression ‘expected week of confinement’ was used, but the terms childbirth and confinement are interchangeable. In current Government guidance the term EWC is often replaced with the week or date ‘ the baby is due'. In these Q&As the term ‘due’ is used where possible.

Q: What maternity leave are women employees entitled to?

Q: What notice is an employee required to give to their employer when taking maternity leave and when returning to work?

Q: Does an employee have a right to return to exactly the same job after maternity leave and what notice do they need to give if they do not intend returning to work?

Q: What benefits must employers provide during maternity leave?

Q: What is the position concerning holiday entitlement during maternity leave and shared parental leave?

Q: What happens to the level of statutory maternity pay if the employee is awarded a pay rise before or while absent on maternity leave?

Q: What statutory maternity pay must an employer pay?

Q: How does shared parental leave work?

Q: What are the qualification requirements for shared parental leave?

Q: What are the notification requirements for shared parental leave?

Q: What is curtailment of maternity leave and pay and how does it relate to shared parental leave?

Q: What do employers need to know about shared parental pay?

Q: Do employers need to communicate with an employee's partner's employer over shared parental leave and can they refuse requests?

Q: What problem areas arise for employers surrounding shared parental leave?

Q: What special rules apply to shared parental leave when babies are born early or late?

Q: What are keeping in touch (KIT) days during maternity leave and shared parental leave and what are the usual arrangements for payment?

Q: What happens if an employee is sick at the end of the period of maternity or paternity leave or shared parental leave?

Q: What happens if an employee's position becomes redundant during the maternity leave period?

Q: What other statutory claims may pregnant employees and those on maternity or shared parental leave bring against an employer who tries to dismiss or treat them less favourably as a result of exercising their rights?

Q: What discrimination claims may pregnant employees and employees on maternity leave bring against an employer under the Equality Act 2010?

Q: Is an employer taking a risk if they do not provide contractual parental leave packages to male and female employees and what claims may men bring against an employer who treats them less favourably?

Q: What time off must employers provide in relation to antenatal care?

Q: Which employees qualify for paternity leave?

Q: What paternity leave must employers provide?

Q: What notice is an employee required to give to their employer when taking paternity leave and to obtain statutory paternity pay?

Q: What statutory paternity pay and benefits must employers provide during paternity leave?

Q: What notice periods apply for delaying or cancelling the start of paternity leave or shared parental leave?

Q: What is the status of the employee's contract during paternity leave or shared parental leave absence?

Q: What happens if an employee's position becomes redundant during the shared parental leave period?

Q: Is an employee entitled to paid paternity leave, shared parental leave and unpaid parental leave?

Q: Which employees qualify for adoption leave?

Q: What adoption leave must employers provide?

Q: What notice is an employee required to give to their employer when taking adoption leave?

Q: What statutory adoption pay and benefits must employers provide during adoption leave?

Q: Does adoption leave apply to other situations such as an employee who already lives with their partner's children and then adopts them, or surrogacy arrangements?

Q: Do the adoption provisions apply to employees who are adopting a child from overseas?

Q: Can small employers reclaim the costs of maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay?

Q: Are any future developments expected in the area of maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay?

Top