Q. What are my maternity rights?

What are my entitlements?

This is dependent upon the following factors:

* Is the Burgundy Book scheme part of your contract of employment.

* Is there a negotiated and applicable local agreement – these often improve upon what is offered to teachers under the Burgundy Book scheme.

* Do you qualify under your length of ‘continuous service,’ i.e. – have you worked long enough for your employer to qualify for these entitlements. 


My employer matters…

There are many distinct types of employers, so it is imperative if you have a query, that you can definitively state what type of employer you work for.

Local AuthorityNon-Local Authority Employers

Community School

Voluntary Controlled School

Foundation School

Voluntary Aided School

Centrally Organised Support Service

Sixth Form Colleges



Independent Schools

Supply Teacher Agencies


Occupational Maternity Pay / Statutory Maternity Pay

Occupational (OMP)Statutory (SMP)

To qualify, you must be covered by the Burgundy Book and employed for at least one year and 11 weeks with one or more local authorities by the expected week of childbirth.

OMP is paid for a continuous period of up to 39 weeks. 

Weeks 1-4 = 100% of salary

Weeks 5-6 = 90% of salary

Weeks 7-18 = 50% of salary plus the standard Statutory Maternity Pay rate of £139.58 per week. 

The remaining 21 weeks are paid at the standard SMP rate.

To qualify, you must have worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week the baby is due, and you must still be employed in that job in the 15th week before the baby is due/

Weeks 1-6 = 90% of your average pay. Weeks 7-39 = you get the basic rate of statutory maternity pay.

NB - If you work at any time during your maternity leave you will not get your SMP for that week, apart from Keeping In Touch (KIT) days, which allow women to work for up to 10 days without losing SMP.


Claiming your Maternity Pay benefits

SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks and you decide how many weeks you wish to claim for. 

You can claim SMP as early as the 11th week before the birth. However, if you have a pregnancy related illness in the 4 weeks before the baby is due and this triggers your maternity leave, you will not be able to claim statutory sick pay. If, your illness is not pregnancy related, you can claim statutory sick pay until your maternity leave and pay start.

You must give notice to your employer of your pregnancy and your intention to take maternity leave. At the latest, this should be by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of the birth. 

you must also send your employer a copy of your Maternity Certificate, Form MAT B1, which your GP or midwife will have given you. 

For those employed under the Burgundy Book scheme, the first 18 weeks’ pay includes both SMP and OMP, with the SMP being claimed on your behalf by your employer. If you are entitled to you do not need to make any claim apart from informing your employer that you wished to receive SMP when giving notification of absence.

To claim SMP you should ideally apply when you give notice to your employer of your pregnancy and your intention to take maternity leave. At the latest, you should notify your employer at least 28 days before you stop work, asking that you be paid SMP.


When does my Maternity Leave start?

Notification periods vary by employer, so check the arrangements according to your own workplace. It would be safe to say though that notifying your employer of your due date satisfies this requirement, but as always, good communications are essential.

You must (no later than the end of the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth) inform your employer that you are pregnant, the date of your expected week of childbirth and, if requested, a midwife or doctor’s certificate; and the date on which you intend your ordinary maternity leave to commence.

From a Health & Safety perspective, it is advisable to inform your employer of your pregnancy as soon as you feel comfortable. This is because once you have informed your employer, you accrue several maternity related protections and entitlements.

Your midwife or GP will give you a MAT B1 Form when you are approximately 6 months pregnant. This is the form your employer requires to confirm your pregnancy. 

You can start your maternity leave at any time from 11 weeks before the week your baby is due. It is up to you to decide when you begin, and you can work up until the week of childbirth. If you change your mind about when you wish to start your Maternity Leave, you can change the date by giving your employer 28 days’ notice.

SMP begins on the same day as your maternity leave, this being the date notified to the employer, or if you have a pregnancy-related illness during the last four weeks of your pregnancy, your maternity leave will be automatically triggered.

When a baby is born before early and therefore in advance of your start date for maternity leave, the day after the date of the birth will be classed as the first day of maternity leave and SMP.

It is a legal requirement that you do not work for two weeks following the date of

Your employer must, within 28 days of receiving notice of your intention to take maternity leave, give you written notice of the agreed date that your maternity leave entitlement will end.

During the Ordinary Maternity Leave period, all your contractual rights, except your normal pay, will continue as if you were not absent from work.


Legislative Protections / Rules to be aware of

As soon as you have notified your employer of your pregnancy, your employer must assess any specific risks to your condition and take appropriate steps to eliminate them. 

Once your employer knows you are pregnant, if you are sacked for a reason connected with your pregnancy, it will automatically be unfair dismissal. 

You are entitled to paid time off to go to antenatal appointments. This includes relaxation and parent-craft classes. It is reasonable to provide an appointment letter.

By the end of Week 25 of your pregnancy, you must have given notice that you are pregnant, letting your employer know your expected week of childbirth and giving written notice of the date on which you intend to start your maternity leave. 

For those employed under the Burgundy Book scheme and therefore in receipt of Occupational Maternity Pay, you must declare your intention to return to work at the end of your period of maternity leave.

By the end of Week 29, you can officially start your Maternity Leave

By the end of Week 36 onwards, if you are off sick for a pregnancy-related reason in the last four weeks of pregnancy, your employer will require you to begin your maternity leave


After your baby is born

Do not forget to claim Child Benefit. You must put in a claim within three months of the birth for it to be paid from the date of birth.

If you wish to return to work early, you must give your employer 21 days' written notice, if you are entitled to the Burgundy Book provisions, or 8 weeks’ written notice if you are only entitled to the statutory provisions.

In Week 53 after giving birth, you must return to work at the beginning of this week. Your employer should have notified you of the exact date within 28 days of receiving your notification of pregnancy and start date of leave. 

To keep the monies paid to you as part of the Occupational Maternity Scheme (the Burgundy Book), you must complete at least 13 weeks’ full-time service, or its part-time equivalent, on your return to work. This period includes both term time and school holidays. There is no need to return to work if you claimed SMP only and there is no need to repay SMP if you do not return for 13 weeks.