Regulations on working hours are one of the most important arrangements between an employee and employer. But how much break time are employees entitled to? How does the law define breaks and are there any exceptions? Which breaks are paid for and which aren’t? Answers to all these questions can be found in this article.
Often the last thing people want to think about when a baby arrives is how they need to keep up with the workplace, and the UK has some maternity leave regulations in place. This is not to say that they are perfect – if you are a ‘worker’ rather than an employee, your workplace may not give you paid maternity leave. It is a good idea to wise up on the current regulations, so that when your new family member arrives, you don’t need to think about this important topic too much. In this article we will look at when you are entitled to maternity leave from work, when that leave is paid, and how to relate to holidays whist you’re on maternity leave. We will also briefly provide some information on what to do if you need help in the case that you are denied maternity leave.
When am I entitled to maternity leave?
If you are classed as an employee, you are entitled to take maternity leave – this is an important factor in whether you are entitled to pay on maternity leave, and if you will get holidays on maternity leave. The terms of your work for a company can be found in your contract; if you have a set amount of hours that you work and work regularly, you are most likely an employee, and not a worker. The exact regulations for this can be a bit confusing, so it is worth checking in with an local advisor to be sure. If you’re on a zero hours contract, or work for an agency, it is unlikely that you will be considered an ‘employee’ proper, and in this case you will not be entitled to maternity leave.
If you are self-employed, you are also not entitled to maternity leave. However, if you have a contract which says you’re self-employed, you might be eligible to take maternity leave. Again, checking with a local advisor is a good idea in this case.
When am I entitled to maternity pay?
There are, in fact, three common types of maternity pay, called statutory maternity pay, contractual maternity pay, and maternity allowance. These three types of pay differ from each other, and are in addition to any maternity leave you get.
Statutory maternity pay is the normal type of maternity pay that most mothers get when they have a child as an employee. It is the legal minimum your employer can pay you, provided that you are entitled to receive it. The second type of maternity pay is contractual maternity pay, which is offered instead of statutory maternity pay. Check your work contract to see if this applies to you. If you are not entitled to get maternity pay through your employer, you may be able to get maternity allowance from the government.
Alongside maternity pay, it is worth checking if you are eligible for Child Tax Credit, Healthy Start Vouchers, and grants such as the Sure Start grant. These offer help during an often more strenuous time, so check with your local council about the possible benefits and help you can receive.
Holidays during maternity leave
Whilst you’re on maternity leave, it’s likely that you’ll feel like you need a break, or a holiday from daily life after welcoming your new family member. Maternity leave is no bed of roses, and the good news is that you will continue to accrue holiday leave whilst you are on maternity leave. If you cannot take a holiday whilst on maternity leave, you can let unused days ‘roll-over’ to the next year. This is up to 28 days, provided that you work 5 days a week. This is the same for public holidays, and just because you’re away from work, shouldn’t mean that you miss out on enjoying bank holidays, without worrying that you’re not being paid for that time off, or that you’re using up time off work.
What if I want to work occasionally?
Depending on your responsibilities at work, it is possible that your employer will contact you whilst you’re on maternity leave. There are regulations in place to make sure that your leave is really leave, and that you don’t feel like you still need to focus on work, when you’ve got a baby to look after. However, it is a good idea to agree in writing how often you can be contacted – this is helpful for you and your employer.
If you feel like working whilst you’re on maternity leave, you can do this without affecting your rights. For example, you can work for up to 10 days without changing the status of your leave as paid maternity leave, and are known in the work place as ‘keeping in touch’ days.
Company days out or training days will be considered to be ‘keeping in touch’ days. Anything that counts as working hours for employees in the work place will count as part of these days. It is worth checking this with your employer and local advisor, but that is a rule of thumb.
What to do if you need help
Sometimes, unfortunately, it can be a hassle to get all your rights in the work place. However, there are organizations you can contact if you feel that you are not being granted your full rights. If you are made redundant or sacked whilst on maternity leave, it is imperative to make sure that you are not being subject to discrimination. Contacting a trade union, as well as having another talk with your employer can really help, and organisations such as Citizens Advice are a good resource for more information, which is specific to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Please note the legal disclaimer relating to this article.