My maternity leave is about to finish and I am pregnant again. What are my rights?

Your maternity leave does not break your continuity of employment, so you have the same right to take maternity leave and receive maternity pay as with your first pregnancy.

However, if you do not return to work (or do not return for very long) you may not earn enough to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for your second period of maternity leave. This is because your SMP entitlement is based on your average earnings over the eight week period before the 15th week before the baby is due (about weeks 17 to 25 of pregnancy). However, if you don’t qualify, you are likely to qualify for Maternity Allowance (MA) instead.

Returning to work before or during the eight week qualifying period for SMP may boost the pay you receive for your second maternity leave period. This is because the first six weeks of SMP are paid at 90% of the average earnings you received during the eight week qualifying period. By contrast, MA is capped at £140.98 a week throughout, or 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax if less.

For your second period of leave you must give the same notice as you did the first time. Leave cannot begin more than 11 weeks before your expected week of confinement.

If you do not return to work between your two periods of leave, this may have implications for your eventual return because, regardless of how much leave you take second time around, you will only have the right to return to the same job if it is reasonably practicable to do so. If it is not reasonably practicable, your employer may offer you a suitable alternative job. That alternative job must be on no less favourable terms and conditions, with seniority and pension rights unaffected. If you return to work between the two periods of leave – even if it is just for a day – and then only take Ordinary Maternity Leave after the birth of your second child, you will have the right to return to the same job.

You may decide to share some of your second leave with your partner if you both qualify, under the new Shared Parental Leave scheme. You must take at least the first two weeks of your second maternity leave (four weeks if you are a factory worker). Statutory Shared Parental Pay is capped throughout at the rate of £140.98 per week or 90% of your earnings if less.

There's more information in workSMART's Shared Parental Leave section and on SPLASH, a web portal organised by legal advisers and charities, including Maternity Action and Working Families.

You may also want to take advantage of Keeping in Touch (KiT) Days during your leave. Employees on maternity leave can carry out work or training for up to ten days without losing the right to SMP or bringing your maternity leave to an end.

There is a similar arrangement under the Shared Parental Leave scheme, known as ‘SPLIT’ days.

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.