Your maternity rights
Your maternity rights
When you're expecting a baby there are lots of laws that protect your rights at work, from how much time you can have off, to how much maternity pay you'll get, and there are various laws to protect the health of you and your baby.
Sometimes, ploughing through all that legal-speak is hard work, so here is a checklist of the basics, followed by useful links where you can find more detailed information.
Your qualifying week: You may check the information as present on the Ministry of Manpower site under Maternity Leave.
Telling your boss you're pregnant
You're not legally obliged to tell your boss you're expecting until your qualifying week (week 25 or 15 weeks before your baby is due). But it may be a good idea to spill the beans earlier as it'll help your employer plan for cover when you're on maternity leave. It also means you'll be able to go off to antenatal appointments, and to talk about changing your working conditions if you think you need to (you may need to switch to a desk-based job, or avoid lifting heavy machinery, that sort of thing).
When you do formally tell your employer about your pregnancy, put together a letter stating when you'd like your maternity leave and your maternity pay to start.
Once you have told your boss, talk to Human Resources to find out exact details of what you are entitled to. Some companies, for instance, offer enhanced parental leave packages or will be prepared to allow you to vary your hours to avoid the rush hour.
Many employers are supportive of their pregnant employees. However, even if yours isn't, you cannot legally be fired, singled out for redundancy or given worse conditions simply because of your pregnancy. For instance, taking away your company car because you are pregnant or laying you off to avoid having to pay maternity pay would be illegal.
Your employer must also take care to ensure your work isn't harmful to you or your baby. So, for instance, if you work with chemicals that might harm the baby, you should be transferred to other duties.
Your boss might ask you if you intend to come back. You do not have to give a definite answer on this. The company must hold your job open for you so you can make a decision after the birth.
When can you start your maternity leave and how long can you have off work?
You can start your maternity leave any date which is no earlier than the 4 weeks before your delivery (so count backwards from your due date to find out which week). Alternatively, you can carry on working as long as you like, right up until your waters break. It may be uncomfortable, but it does mean you get maximum time off with your baby. If you are still working when your baby is born, your leave will officially start the day after the birth. If you find you have to take time off with pregnancy-related health problems in the last four weeks before your due date, your employer can ask that you start your maternity leave.
How long can you have off work?
All mums can take up to 16 weeks maternity leave, based on the eligibility criteria which can be found here.
For self-employed: you have been engaged in your work for at least 3 continuous months and have lost income during the maternity leave period.
They can then claim reimbursement from the Government under the Government-Paid Maternity Leave (GPML) scheme.
What about dads?
- Your partner can claim Paternity leave and now is able to share one week from your maternity leave too, if the need arises.
- You may read about the eligibility and benefits from here.
returning to work after maternity leave - mums tell mums
Going back to work
- If you're going back to work at the end of maternity leave, you don't need to give notice of your return. But if you decide you do want to go back early, you'll have to give at least 8 weeks notice.
- If you decide not to go back to work, you have to give your normal amount of notice.
- If you're not sure, you can think about it during maternity leave. As long as you give your employer the right notice that you're not coming back, that's fine.
- Once you're back you can ask for flexible working hours and your employer is obliged to consider your request.