Maternity leave and pay

This guidance is intended for pregnant employees, new mothers and their managers and sets out the maternity leave and pay entitlements, and other rights of pregnant women and new mothers. It is essential that you read all the maternity guidance. 


The University family leave schemes changed on 1 January 2020.

With effect from 1 January 2020 any employee who has:
i.     started work with the University before their child is born (or placed with them for adoption), and
ii.    not already commenced family (maternity, adoption, paternity or shared parental leave), and
iii.   intends to return to work for the University after their period of family leave
will qualify for the University’s enhanced maternity, adoption and paternity leave and pay benefits.  

Shared Parental Leave requires both parents to meet statutory eligibility criteria and therefore it may not be possible to extend enhanced SPL and pay in all cases: cases will be determined on a case by case basis by reference to the statutory scheme.

Full details are set out in the scheme guidance for each scheme


Throughout the guidance reference is made to the term 'employee', which means that the individual holds a University contract of employment with the Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University and therefore, has entitlement to employment benefits.  Casual worker (including TSS), visitors, or those with any other non-employment relationship are not covered by this policy.

The purpose of maternity leave is to allow a new mother to give birth and to recover from giving birth to her baby, as well as to bond with, and care for, her new child.

There are differences between maternity leave (to which all new mothers are entitled) and maternity pay (for which there are qualifying criteria).   

Overview of maternity leave 

All pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks' statutory maternity leave. It is up to the individual employee to decide how much of this entitlement she wishes to take but the law requires that a minimum of two weeks' leave must be taken immediately following the birth of the child. This is known as compulsory maternity leave.

Overview of maternity pay 

There are two types of maternity pay: statutory pay and contractual pay. As long as the mother meets the eligibility criteria the payment she receives will be a combination both types of pay.

Statutory pay

  • Statutory maternity pay (SMP): Eligible mothers receive SMP for up to 39 weeks in total. Although this is a state benefit it is paid via an employer’s payroll and the employer then reclaims the payments from HMRC. If the mother has 26 weeks service with the University at the qualifying week, it is paid by the University. If the mother is a recent new starter and was employed by another employer at the qualifying week she may qualify for SMP via her previous employer, and need to claim her SMP from them.

  • Maternity Allowance (MA): Mothers who do not meet the SMP eligibility criteria but who do meet a lower threshold of criteria may be eligible for MA.  MA is paid at either a higher or lower statutory rate, and for either 39 or 14 weeks, depending on the mother’s circumstances and previous earnings.  The mother claims it directly from Jobcentre Plus.

Further information is given in this guidance but details of statutory family leave and pay is available from the website

Contractual maternity pay

Some employers offer their employees a contractual, enhanced rate of pay, which supplements the statutory rate. The University’s contractual maternity pay scheme is exceptionally generous, and any statutory payments to which the mother is eligible are ‘topped up’ by the University so that she continues to receives pay at a rate equivalent to her normal full pay for up to the first 26 weeks of her maternity leave period.  After that, if she remains on maternity leave she may be eligible for a further 13 weeks’ pay at the rate of statutory pay, which will be paid to her by either the University, or her previous employer if she was employed by them at the qualifying week.


Where a surrogacy arrangement is planned, particular rules apply. Staff should speak to their Departmental Administrator (or equivalent) who should in turn seek advice from their HR Business Partner, who will advise on a case-by-case basis.