Pregnancy & Parenthood

Here's the lowdown on pregnancy and parental leave:

- Since the law changed in 2003, women are entitled to 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave - it doesn't matter how long they've worked for their employer.

- Ordinary maternity leave is normally paid leave.

- Women who've completed 26 weeks’ continuous employment by the beginning of the 14th week before the expected week of childbirth are entitled to 26 weeks' additional maternity leave.

- Additional maternity leave begins at the end of ordinary maternity leave.

- The contract of employment continues during the maternity leave.

- After this, your job is yours again. Mums-to-be can also take reasonable time off with pay for antenatal care (after the baby's born).

- You can take sick leave as normal if you're ill during your pregnancy, but you must let your employer know.

- Both parents can take 13 weeks unpaid parental leave until the child's fifth birthday but you do need to have been at the company for a year to qualify.

- Dads may have to show their employer that they've been officially registered as the child's father.

- Expectant fathers can get two weeks' statutory paid paternity leave.

- Dads can choose to take either one week or two consecutive weeks’ paternity leave (not odd days).

- Lone parents with jobs can get help and support as part of New Deal.

Your side of the deal

- Tell your employer that you are pregnant and when your baby is due.

- Give your employer 21 days' warning before the date you want to start your leave.

- You may need to show your employer a certificate from your GP or midwife stating the expected week of childbirth.

- Tell your employer when the baby is born and whether you're returning to work when the leave is finished.

- Tell your employer at least 21 days beforehand if you plan to go back to work before your maternity leave is over.

- See if your employer can give you any further help or support - some organisations are geared up to help with childcare.

Nasty surprises

You can be made redundant while you're on maternity leave, but they'll need to have a genuine reason and offer you any other vacant post in the company that you could fill. You can't be fired from your job for being pregnant, or if you are, your boss is breaking the law and you would take them to an employment tribunal.

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