What Is Additional 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.

The first 26 weeks of maternity leave are known as Ordinary Maternity Leave and the second 26 weeks are known as Additional Maternity Leave (AML).

AML starts on the day after the Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) period finishes.

An important difference between OML and AML is the extent of your right to return to work at the end of your maternity leave.

At the end of OML, you have the right to return to your old job. At the end of AML your right to return is slightly different. You have the right to return to your old job, but if it is not reasonably practicable for the employer to offer you your old job back, you must be offered appropriate similar employment, on no less favourable terms, and with your seniority and pension conditions unaffected.

Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance are payable, for those who qualify, for the first 39 weeks of maternity leave. This means that the first 13 weeks of AML may be paid. The remainder, if you take it, will be unpaid leave.

During maternity leave, you will build up annual leave under your employment contract. Adding some annual leave to the end of your maternity leave is one way of extending your time at home once your allowance of paid maternity leave has run out.

Throughout your maternity leave, you are entitled to all of the contractual rights that you would have received if you had not been on leave, except your wages.

Any employer occupational pension contributions must continue to be paid during maternity, paternity and adoption leave throughout the time when the leave is paid (whether through statutory or contractual maternity pay). Pension contributions usually stop during any periods of unpaid leave. The whole of the leave period – paid and unpaid – must be taken into account when assessing length of service for occupational pension purposes.

Pensions entitlement in the context of maternity leave is a complicated area, so you should seek the advice of your union representative.

Your employer must not discriminate against you while you are on any part of your maternity leave. If you feel that you have been discriminated against while on maternity leave, seek advice from your union or a legal specialist.

Childcare vouchers under a salary sacrifice scheme are wages. This means that your employer is not obliged to carry on providing them during your maternity leave.

At any stage after the first two weeks of maternity leave (four weeks for a factory worker), you have the right to end your maternity leave and opt into the new Shared Parental Leave system, as long as both you and your partner qualify. For more information, see workSMART's Shared Parental Leave section and the Acas guidance on Shared Parental Leave (PDF, 753KB). Also see SPLASH, a web portal devised by a group of legal advisers and charities, including Working Families and Maternity Action, providing clear advice on the new Shared Parental Leave rights.

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.