What is Ordinary Maternity Leave?

All pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave, regardless of how long they have been employed. It is a right available from day one of the employment. Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) is the first 26 weeks of that leave.

During the whole of your maternity leave, you are entitled to the benefit of all of the contractual rights that you would have received if you had not been on leave (including special rights such as a company car or mobile phone) except your right to wages or salary. See Am I entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay? to find out more.

Childcare vouchers provided by your employer under a salary sacrifice scheme are "wages". This means that your employer does not have to continue providing them during your maternity leave.

If you return to work during or at the end of your Ordinary Maternity Leave (i.e. within the first 26 weeks), you are entitled to return to the same job. Your right to return to the same job is unaffected by adding up to four weeks of unpaid parental leave to the end of your maternity leave.

It is against the law for your employer to discriminate against you because you have asked to take or have taken maternity leave.

After the first two weeks of your maternity leave (four weeks in the case of factory workers), you can opt to share your remaining leave with your partner, as long as you are both eligible under the Shared Parental Leave regime. See our Shared Parental Leave page for more information.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.