You must always check your contract of employment for information on notice periods for your return to work after maternity, additional paternity or adoption leave.
After maternity leave
You have the right to return to the same job on the same terms and conditions when returning from OML (the first 26 weeks of leave). On returning to work during or at the end of AML (the last 26 weeks), you are also entitled to return to your previous job on the same terms and conditions. If this is not reasonably practicable, you should be offered work on no less favourable terms. You would have a right to another job which is both suitable and appropriate for you to do in the circumstances.
When you resume work after OML and AML you are entitled to benefit from any general improvements to the rate of pay (or other terms and conditions) that you would have received had you been at work.
When to return: non-NHS employees
If you are employed outside the NHS read your contract of employment or local policy to determine when you need to return and the notice period you need to give.
When to return: NHS staff employed under Agenda for Change (AfC)
Section 15 of the AfC handbook states that to claim NHS contractual maternity pay you must intend to return to work with the same or another NHS employer for a minimum period of three months after your maternity leave has ended. If you do not return to NHS employment within 15 months of the beginning of your maternity leave, then you will be liable to refund the whole of your maternity pay (except for the SMP or MA received).
You may return to work early if you give at least 28 days notice, although some local policies require eight weeks’ notice. Furthermore, you have the right to return your job under your original contract and on no less favourable terms and conditions.
If you return at the end of your full 52 weeks of maternity leave and have not told your employer that you wish to go back at any other time, you do not need to provide any further notice.
Leaving your job or deciding not to return
If you do not want to go back to work after the birth of your baby, this will not affect your right to SMP/MA. Check your contract for any clause which requires you to pay back any contractual maternity pay if you decide not to return - such a clause does exist within the AfC contract, as explained above. If you are undecided, keep your options open and ensure you stick to the notice requirements.
All employees can ask their employer for flexible working arrangements to help them manage a return to work with young children. You may also have the statutory right to request a flexible working pattern. To apply for flexible working under the statutory process you must:
- be an employee, but not in the armed forces
- have worked for your employer continuously for 26 weeks before applying
- not have made another application to work flexibly for that employer in the last 12 months.
Employed agency workers also now have the right to apply for flexible working when they return to work following a period of parental leave. It is important to note that your employer can refuse your request if they follow the correct procedure and have a legitimate business reason.
Further information can be found in our advice guide on flexible working.
Parental leave allows you to take unpaid leave from work to care for children or to spend more time with them. To qualify for parental leave you will need to be an employee and have completed one year’s continuous service with your employer at the date of request. For each child you have, you are entitled to take up to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave to care for them up until their fifth birthday. Parents of disabled children can take 18 weeks up to the child’s 18th birthday. If your child is adopted then you can taken 18 weeks up to the fifth year of their placement or until their 18th birthday, whichever comes sooner.