Sick leave during pregnancy in 2024: Comprehensive guide about your rights.

This article outlines your entitlements to sick leave in pregnancy. Also about sick pay and Statutory Sick Pay during periods of illness in pregnancy, maternity or shared parental leave, and upon returning to work.
Sick leave during pregnancy

Understanding your rights at work during pregnancy is crucial to ensuring your health and the health of your unborn child are protected. Pregnant employees are entitled to reasonable time off for antenatal care, which includes not only medical examinations but also antenatal classes if recommended by a doctor or midwife. It’s important to note that this right extends to paid time off, aiming to alleviate any financial concerns that might deter expectant mothers from seeking necessary care. Employers are also legally bound to conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify any aspects of the work environment or duties that could be harmful to pregnant employees. In situations where risks are identified, employers must take appropriate action to remove these risks. This could mean offering suitable alternative work, adjusting working conditions, or if neither is possible, suspending the employee on full pay.

What are my rights if I am off sick during pregnancy?.

During pregnancy, you are entitled to the same rights for paid sick leave as any other employee, with the exception of the final four weeks before delivery (further details below). If you experience health issues during pregnancy, it’s important to adhere to your employer’s standard procedures for reporting sickness.

Employers are required to track any absences due to pregnancy-related issues separately from other types of sick leave. This ensures that absences related to pregnancy do not negatively impact you, such as through disciplinary actions, termination, or redundancy considerations.

You are eligible for the same sick pay benefits as your colleagues. If your employer offers contractual sick pay, you are entitled to receive this during pregnancy just as you would under normal circumstances. To understand the specifics of your sick pay entitlements, review your employment contract or consult with your employer, union representative, or HR department.

In cases where you are not eligible for contractual sick pay, or if it has been exhausted, you might qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) (see the following question for more details). Should your employer deny you sick pay during pregnancy (whether contractual or SSP), you may have grounds for a claim related to unauthorized deduction of wages and/or pregnancy discrimination. It is advisable to seek legal advice promptly in such situations.

Understanding Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

For the period April 2024 to April 2025, SSP is set at £116.75 per week. This payment is made by employers after an employee has been absent due to illness for four consecutive days, including non-working days. The first three days of absence, known as qualifying days, are not covered by SSP. However, if you fall ill again within the next eight weeks, these qualifying days do not apply.

To be eligible for SSP, you must earn a minimum average of £123 per week in the eight weeks prior to your illness. SSP can be received for a maximum of 28 weeks. In cases where SSP is not applicable, your employer should provide you with form SSP1, which opens the possibility of claiming Employment Support Allowance.

It’s important to note that annual leave accrues even during sick leave. You have the option to use some of this leave during your sick leave. This can be particularly beneficial if you’re aiming to receive full pay for a period, which might affect the calculation for Statutory Maternity Pay.

For detailed information on SSP and its calculation, visit: Should you encounter issues with your employer regarding SSP payment, such as refusal to pay, liquidation, or incorrect payment, you can seek a formal resolution by contacting the HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team at 0300 322 9422.

For additional assistance, refer to the “Where to go for more help” section below.

Can my employer terminate my employment to evade paying Statutory Sick Pay or Statutory Maternity Pay?

If your employment is terminated ‘primarily’ to avoid paying SSP or SMP, you should reach out to the HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team at 0300 322 9422 for an official determination. This pertains to actions like dismissal, redundancy, non-renewal of fixed-term contracts, or concluding your contract at the end of a probationary period.

Consider the evidence you possess, such as the timing of your employer’s decision to terminate your contract (notably if it coincides with the onset of your qualification for SMP or follows a period of sickness absence), documentation of your sick leave duration, and any proof of notifying your employer about your pregnancy.

You must have been employed for a minimum of 8 weeks. If HMRC finds that your employment was terminated to sidestep SSP obligations, they will mandate your employer to pay SSP for the duration of your entitled sick leave or until your contract was due to end, whichever comes first. Similarly, if it’s determined that your contract was terminated to avoid SMP payments, HMRC will compel your employer to disburse your SMP. To safeguard your rights, it’s advisable to apply for Maternity Allowance, as detailed below, while awaiting HMRC’s decision.

Read more about Discrimination during pregnancy.

Is it necessary to commence maternity leave early due to illness?

Typically, the timing of your maternity leave is your decision. However, if you experience a pregnancy-related illness within the last four weeks before your due week, your employer has the authority to initiate your maternity leave automatically – refer to the instructions below for calculation.

Employers may overlook sporadic days of illness at their discretion, for instance, if maternity cover is arranged and your leave was scheduled closer to your delivery date. Should you need to begin your maternity leave during the final four weeks before your expected delivery, you must notify your employer as soon as possible, indicating that your absence is due to a pregnancy-related illness. Your maternity leave and pay commence the day after your first day of absence.

Determining the start of the four-week period before your expected week of childbirth:

Identify the Sunday that marks the beginning of your expected childbirth week. Count back four Sundays to find the start of the 4th week preceding your baby’s estimated arrival.

Is it lawful for my employer to terminate my employment if I take sick leave due to pregnancy?

If you are dismissed on the grounds of your pregnancy or absence due to pregnancy-related illness, you might be entitled to claim for unfair dismissal, automatic unfair dismissal, and/or pregnancy discrimination.

While claiming unfair dismissal requires two years of service, protection against automatic unfair dismissal and discrimination is immediate from the start of your employment, irrespective of your working hours. This protection extends to casual workers, agency workers, freelancers, and contract workers against discrimination.

Here’s a summary of the legal stance on discrimination due to pregnancy or pregnancy-related illness:

According to the Equality Act 2010, section 18, (2), discrimination occurs when a person (A) treats a woman unfavorably during the protected period of her pregnancy —

(a) because of the pregnancy, or

(b) due to illness resulting from it.

What Constitutes a Pregnancy-Related Illness?

A pregnancy-related illness encompasses any condition associated with your pregnancy or its loss. If there’s uncertainty, you or your employer should consult with your GP for guidance. Protection against pregnancy discrimination typically hinges on your sick leave being officially recognized as pregnancy-related through your medical documentation. Should you prefer not to disclose your pregnancy or the pregnancy-related nature of your illness, it’s advisable to discuss your situation and rights with your GP or midwife.

In the event of a stillbirth occurring after the completion of the 24th week of pregnancy, you are entitled to maternity leave and any qualifying maternity pay.

Maternity Leave and Pay

What are my entitlements to maternity leave and pay?

Every employee is entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave. Employees and workers, including agency workers who meet the eligibility criteria, are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). SMP covers 39 weeks: the initial six weeks at 90% of your average earnings, followed by 33 weeks at a standard rate of £184.03 per week (for the period April 2024 to April 2025) or 90% of your average earnings, whichever is lower.

You are eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if you:

  • have been employed in the same role for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before your expected delivery date, and
  • are employed during any part of this crucial 15th week. Employment status during annual and sick leave counts, and
  • earn a minimum average of £123 per week (April 2024 – April 2025) in the 8 weeks (for weekly pay) or 2 months (for monthly pay) leading up to the 15th week before your expected delivery date.

If your employer does not pay SMP, undergoes liquidation, or makes incorrect payments, you can reach out to the HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team for a formal resolution at 0300 322 9422. Further assistance is detailed in the section below.

Should you be ineligible for SMP, you might qualify for Maternity Allowance through Jobcentre Plus, paid at a standard rate of £184.03 for 39 weeks.

Will being ill during my pregnancy impact my maternity pay?

Your Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) might be influenced if you take time off work or if there’s a reduction in your earnings during the SMP calculation period. This period spans eight weeks (for those paid weekly) or two months (for those paid monthly) before the week that qualifies you for SMP.

Determining the Qualifying Week

The qualifying week is identified as the 15th week before your expected delivery week. To find it, look for the Sunday preceding your due date and count 15 weeks back from there. If your due date falls on a Sunday, simply count back 15 weeks from that date to find your qualifying week.

During the first six weeks of SMP, you’ll receive 90% of your average earnings calculated over the period mentioned. If your earnings were reduced due to receiving Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for part of this time, your SMP for these six weeks will also decrease. To potentially increase your earnings for SMP calculation, you might consider taking some of your annual leave during this period. Remember, you continue to accrue annual leave while on sick leave and are entitled to take this leave during periods of illness.

If SSP was your only income throughout the entire calculation period, your average earnings will fall below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 (from April 2024 to April 2025), making you ineligible for SMP from your employer. However, you may qualify for Maternity Allowance from the Jobcentre Plus, which is available for 39 weeks at a standard rate of £184.03.

Feeling exhausted by your job? Wondering if you should opt for sick leave or maternity leave?

You shouldn’t have to resort to sick leave if you’re physically able to work. Misusing sick leave could potentially decrease your maternity pay (should you be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay) or might prematurely initiate your maternity leave (starting from the 36th week). You have a right to health and safety protection throughout your pregnancy. It’s your employer’s responsibility to assess any potential risks to your health and safety, such as prolonged periods of standing. Employers are obligated to make reasonable adjustments to your role, modifying your working conditions or hours when necessary. If risks to your health and safety persist, your employer must either provide you with suitable alternative employment or place you on paid suspension.

Is it possible for me to work until the birth of my baby?

Absolutely, the decision of when to commence your maternity leave rests with you. You have the option to work right up until your baby’s birth, during which your employer is obligated to ensure your health and safety at work are continuously assessed.

However, should you have your baby earlier than expected, your maternity leave and pay will begin the day following the birth. Moreover, if you find yourself off work due to a pregnancy-related illness or are suspended for health and safety reasons within the final 4 weeks leading up to your expected week of childbirth, your employer is entitled to initiate your maternity leave and pay starting the day after your initial day of absence. It’s important to note that your maternity leave/pay cannot commence any earlier than this guideline.

Sickness During Maternity Leave

Can I Receive Contractual Sick Pay While on Maternity Leave?

During maternity leave, you are not entitled to receive your regular wages, which includes contractual sick pay. To qualify for contractual sick pay in lieu of maternity pay, you must provide eight weeks’ notice to conclude your maternity leave prematurely. Subsequently, adhere to your employer’s sickness policy to claim contractual sick pay.

Should you return to work early and fall ill during the Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance period, and if the illness extends for a week or more within the 39-week maternity pay timeframe, you will revert to receiving SMP/Maternity Allowance. In cases where contractual sick pay is part of your employment benefits, your employer is obligated to supplement the SMP/Maternity Allowance to ensure you receive your full salary.

Upon recovery, you are required to resume work, as reverting to maternity leave and pay is not an option. However, if you or your partner are eligible for shared parental leave, you may opt for it up to 52 weeks from the birth, provided you concluded your maternity leave prematurely and now wish to apply for additional leave. Adequate notice must be given to qualify for shared parental leave.

Is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Available During Maternity Leave?

During the 39-week period for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA), you are ineligible for SSP as you’ll receive SMP/MA for any absence. If you’re not eligible for SMP/MA, SSP is still not available for the initial 18 weeks.

Eligibility for SSP arises post the SMP/MA period, requiring an average weekly earning of at least £123 in the eight weeks before your sickness. Earnings include contractual maternity pay and SMP, but not Maternity Allowance.

Generally, SSP claims are viable once maternity leave concludes. SSP Regulations necessitate ‘gainful employment’ for qualification, and despite being an employee on maternity leave, unpaid leave likely doesn’t meet this criteria.

Do I Need to Notify My Employer About Returning from Maternity Leave?

If you plan to return to work after the full 52 weeks of maternity leave, no prior notice is required. Simply resume work on your scheduled return date. Upon the completion of your maternity leave, you are considered ‘back at work’ with entitlement to your usual salary. Additionally, you may take annual leave or sick leave as necessary, subject to arrangements with your employer.

However, if you wish to return earlier than the planned end of your maternity leave, you must provide your employer with at least eight weeks’ notice of your intended return date. Without this notice, should you attempt to return earlier, your employer has the right to ask you to leave until the eight-week notice period is fulfilled or until your initially scheduled leave ends, whichever comes first.

In instances where your employer fails to acknowledge your maternity leave notice within 28 days, specifying the end date of your 52-week maternity leave, they cannot demand the eight weeks’ notice for an early return. Even so, it is advisable to give as much notice as you can, facilitating a smoother transition and planning for both you and your employer regarding your return to work.

Do I need to repay my maternity pay if I choose not to return to work?

You are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and Maternity Allowance (MA) for a duration of 39 weeks, irrespective of your decision to return to work or if you lose your job during the SMP/MA period, such as in the case of redundancy. Crucially, there is no obligation to repay SMP or MA if you decide against going back to work.

Should your employer offer additional contractual maternity pay, repayment is only necessary if it was agreed upon beforehand or explicitly outlined in your maternity policy. Importantly, you are only required to repay the additional contractual pay, not the SMP/MA component of your maternity pay.

If you wish to avoid repaying any enhanced occupational maternity pay, it’s advisable to consider options for returning to work. For example, could you utilize accumulated annual leave for a gradual return, by working reduced hours per week, or opt for a part-time or flexible working arrangement?

Upon the conclusion of your maternity leave, you are considered to be ‘back at work’. Therefore, transitioning to part-time work or taking further leave, such as annual or sick leave, will generally contribute towards your return to work period. Occupational maternity pay is an employer-provided benefit, so it’s important to consult your contract or maternity policy for specific terms and conditions. In instances of disagreement over the repayment of maternity pay or the amount due, a discussion with your employer may resolve the issue. In certain cases, employers may agree to forgive the repayment of occupational maternity pay as part of a separation agreement, especially if returning to work is impeded by postnatal depression or illness.

If returning to work is not an option and you are required to repay your occupational maternity pay, consider requesting to repay any company maternity pay in manageable instalments, considering your financial situation. Essential expenses and housing costs must be prioritized. Consulting a debt adviser might be beneficial; they can assist in negotiating with your employer to establish a fair repayment plan.

Must I inform my employer about the duration of my maternity leave?

Your employer should automatically assume that you will avail the full extent of maternity leave entitled to you. Should you choose to return to work earlier than planned, it is necessary to notify your employer of this decision. Conversely, if illness prevents your return to work post-maternity leave, you are entitled to opt for sick leave as per standard procedures.

What steps should I take if I decide not to return to work?

In such a case, it is imperative to resign following standard protocols, which involves providing the requisite notice as stated in your contract or adhering to the customary notice period in your workplace. In the absence of a written contract or specific instructions, a minimum notice of one week is advisable.

Navigating Illness After Maternity Leave Ends

Extended Time Off Post-Maternity Leave: What Are Your Options?

Should you find yourself unfit to resume work post-maternity leave, you’re entitled to the usual sick leave provisions. Yet, it’s crucial to understand that failing to return at the conclusion of your 52-week maternity leave may jeopardize your right to re-employment. If further time off is necessary, consider the following:

  • Discuss the possibility of utilizing accrued annual leave with your employer. Every employee is entitled to a minimum of 28 days of paid annual leave, which continues to accumulate during maternity leave. You might have unused holiday time available. Remember, annual leave requests must follow the standard procedure, and your recent maternity leave should not affect your treatment.
  • Explore the option of negotiating additional time off with your employer. Ensure any agreement includes written confirmation, explicitly stating your job position upon return.
  • Consider applying for unpaid Parental Leave at the end of your maternity period. Eligible employees can take up to 18 weeks of Parental Leave for each child until the child turns 18. While typically taken in week-long increments—up to four weeks annually—some employers offer greater flexibility. A minimum notice of 21 days is required for Parental Leave, which is generally unpaid unless otherwise stipulated by your employer. Eligibility requires a minimum of one year of service.
  • If you’ve returned to work but haven’t utilized all your maternity benefits and now seek additional leave, you might be eligible for shared parental leave. This option is available to either parent but must be availed within the first year of the child’s birth, differing from the Parental Leave mentioned previously.

Exploring your options carefully allows you to make well-informed choices regarding extended maternity leave. If you opt for a period of unpaid leave, you might qualify for Universal Credit, based on your household’s income, housing expenses, and the number of dependents you have. To assist with Universal Credit applications, the free Citizens Advice Help to Claim service is available in England: 0800 144 8444, Wales: 0800 024 1220, Scotland: 0800 023 2581, and Northern Ireland through Advice NI at 0800 915 4604.

How can I manage time off for childcare emergencies post-return to work?

Beyond the usual leave entitlements, you’re entitled to take urgent, unpaid leave to manage emergencies involving a dependent. This provision is applicable in situations where a dependent becomes seriously ill, experiences an accident, or when there’s an unexpected disruption in their care arrangements—for example, if your childminder is suddenly unavailable. This leave is meant to provide you with enough time to address the immediate crisis and organize alternative care arrangements. It’s important to inform your employer about your absence promptly, explaining the reason and indicating when you plan to return to work.

What happens to my annual leave during extended maternity or sick leave?.

Even when on sick leave or maternity leave, your entitlement to annual leave continues to accrue. This means you accumulate your standard holiday entitlement as if you were actively working. According to the Working Time Regulations, all employees are guaranteed 28 days of statutory annual leave, which may include Bank Holidays. Any holiday time beyond these 28 days is considered contractual leave, provided at the discretion of your employer.

Should you find yourself away from work for an extended period due to sickness and/or maternity leave, it’s likely you’ve amassed a significant amount of leave. It’s important to coordinate with your employer to schedule this accumulated leave. During sick leave, you have the option to take some of your annual leave, allowing you to receive paid holiday. If unable to take your annual leave due to illness, you’re permitted to carry over up to 20 days into the next year.

Annual leave can’t be taken concurrently with maternity leave. However, you may opt to conclude your maternity leave early and transition into paid annual leave. This requires at least an 8-week notice to terminate maternity leave prematurely, and the scheduling of your annual leave must be mutually agreed upon with your employer. Discussing your annual leave plans early in your pregnancy is advisable, enabling both you and your employer to prepare accordingly.

If you return to work sooner, you or your partner might be eligible for shared parental leave within the first year following your child’s birth, offering additional flexibility for your family.

If you cannot use all your annual leave within the leave year due to maternity leave, shared parental leave, or other parental leave types, the government suggests that employers should permit carrying forward up to 28 days of statutory leave to the subsequent leave year. For more information, visit .

Should your employer provide more than the statutory minimum of 28 days of annual leave, the decision on how much additional contractual annual leave (beyond the statutory 28 days) you are allowed to carry forward depends on your employer. Therefore, it’s advisable to review your contract or discuss this directly with your employer for clarification.

Am I eligible for sick pay after my maternity leave ends?

If your employer offers sick pay, you’re entitled to it if you’re unable to return to work post-maternity leave due to illness. Be sure to follow your employer’s standard procedures for reporting sickness when your maternity leave concludes.

Check your employer’s sick pay policy to understand the duration of their sick pay benefit. Should you be sick beyond this period, you might be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or Employment and Support Allowance.

Qualifying for Statutory Sick Pay upon failing to return to work due to illness

SSP is available after four successive days of illness for employees earning at least £123 per week (April 2024 – April 2025) over the prior 8 weeks.

You’re not eligible for SSP during the 39 weeks of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or 18 weeks if SMP doesn’t apply to you. If your illness starts after these periods and your earnings were sufficient, you could qualify for SSP. It’s crucial to report your sickness immediately following your SMP period, not during it.

After the 39-week SMP period, SMP is considered earnings, potentially qualifying you for SSP, whereas Maternity Allowance isn’t. If planning to return to work before the end of a 52-week maternity leave, you must notify your employer at least eight weeks in advance.

If you’ve taken extra unpaid maternity leave, you cannot claim SSP without average earnings of at least £123 per week in the preceding 8 weeks.

SSP is provided for up to 28 weeks, after which you may qualify for New-Style Employment and Support Allowance (with adequate National Insurance contributions) or Universal Credit. Without qualification for SSP, your employer should issue form SSP1. For further advice, contact your local Jobcentre Plus or Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

Can I be dismissed if I’m unwell and unable to return to work after maternity leave?

Upon the conclusion of your maternity leave, you are considered as being ‘back at work,’ even if you’re too unwell to physically attend. At this point, you have the right to avail of sick leave and must be treated in the same manner as any other employee who is off due to illness. You and your employer are expected to adhere to the standard procedures for sickness absence.

Should your illness extend over a considerable period, your employer’s standard policy on sickness will come into effect. Importantly, when tallying your sick days, your employer must exclude any absences due to pregnancy-related issues or the period you were on maternity leave.

Protection against discrimination based on pregnancy or maternity is in place from the onset of pregnancy until the conclusion of your maternity leave (which could be up to 52 weeks or until you return to work, whichever happens first). If you are not an employee or do not qualify for maternity leave – for instance, if you are an agency worker or if you had a miscarriage before the 24th week of pregnancy ended – this protective period ceases two weeks after childbirth. To lodge a claim for pregnancy/maternity discrimination, you must demonstrate that you were treated unfavorably because of your pregnancy, a pregnancy-related sickness, or absence during maternity leave. It’s also possible to claim discrimination if a decision made during your protected period is enacted after your maternity leave has ended.

According to the Equality Act 2010, section 18, (6), the protective period for pregnancy/maternity discrimination begins with the pregnancy and concludes at the end of additional maternity leave or upon your return to work after pregnancy, if that occurs sooner. If you do not have the right to ordinary and additional maternity leave, the period ends two weeks after the pregnancy ends.

Following this protected period, you may be eligible to file a claim for sex discrimination if you can prove that you were treated less favorably than a male in a comparable situation, such as a man on long-term sick leave.

Furthermore, you could claim indirect sex discrimination if you show that your employer enforces a policy, practice, or criterion that disproportionately disadvantages women over men (or vice versa) and cannot justify it – for example, if women are more likely to be absent due to illnesses related to pregnancy or childbirth, which exclusively affect women.

If you’re managing a long-term health issue, your employer must make reasonable adjustments to help you return to work and protect you against disability discrimination. There’s a deadline of three months (minus one day) from the date of the incident or series of incidents you’re contesting to file an employment tribunal claim. Within this period, you’re required to initiate ACAS Early Conciliation by calling 0300 123 11 00 before proceeding with a tribunal claim.

Bringing forward such claims can be challenging, and it’s advisable to seek specialized legal counsel. Following an extended sick leave, if your employer has adhered to their sickness absence policy, a dismissal might be considered reasonable under the circumstances and/or justified.

Requesting Reduced Working Hours Upon Return to Work

From your first day on the job, you’re entitled to request adjustments to your work schedule, including part-time hours, changes to your working days, hours, or location, with the ability to submit up to two requests every year. To initiate this process, submit an application to your employer, utilizing the forms and guidance available on the government’s website at Keep in mind that any agreed modifications are typically permanent, unless you and your employer mutually decide on a temporary adjustment. For instance, if you seek to decrease your hours temporarily to facilitate a smoother transition back to work after a sick leave, it’s crucial to secure agreement on this arrangement from the start.

It’s important to carefully consider the form of flexible working that best suits your needs and how it integrates with your role. Your employer is obligated to give your application serious consideration and can only deny it for specific, business-related reasons, such as potential negative impacts on customer service or performance.

Should your request be denied, you have the right to appeal. At this stage, it’s advisable to consult one of the recommended organisations for guidance. If disagreements persist, mediation through ACAS may offer a resolution. Additionally, if your request for flexible working—especially for childcare reasons—is declined, it could constitute indirect sex discrimination. Furthermore, if your request is denied due to issues related to a disability, or if your employer refuses to make reasonable accommodations for your role, you may have grounds for a disability discrimination claim. Note that while sickness alone does not constitute a disability, any physical or mental impairment that significantly and persistently hinders your daily activities does qualify.

Health Issues During Shared Parental Leave

What if I become ill while on shared parental leave?

Should you fall ill during shared parental leave and qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), your employer is obligated to provide SSP in lieu of Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). Receipts of SMP, Statutory Paternity Pay, or ShPP prior to your sickness are considered when determining your eligibility for SSP. Note, SSP is compensated at a weekly rate of £116.75 (from April 2024 to April 2025).

In cases where your employer offers contractual sick pay, you must conclude your SPL and resume work to become eligible for this benefit.

Is it possible to receive sick pay between shared parental leave intervals?

Indeed, once you’re back at work, you should receive the same consideration as any employee on sick leave. If you find yourself ill while back at work or between shared parental leave intervals, particularly during the 39-week SMP/Maternity Allowance window, and your absence extends beyond a week, you will revert to receiving SMP/Maternity Allowance. Should your employer usually supplement this with contractual sick pay, they are required to ensure you receive the full amount of your entitled sick pay.

It’s important to note that any SMP or Maternity Allowance received due to sickness post-returning to work during the maternity pay period does not affect the total weeks of SPL and/or ShPP you and your partner are entitled to. The allocation of shared parental leave and pay remains based upon the date of your return to work.

Is it possible to take annual leave during periods of shared parental leave?

Yes, you can incorporate annual leave into your shared parental leave plan. For instance, you might take 26 weeks of maternity leave, followed by a return to work, then take 2 weeks of annual leave, proceed to 6 weeks of shared parental leave, return to work again, and finally enjoy another 2 weeks of annual leave. It’s essential to coordinate this annual leave with your employer as per normal procedures.

Should you find yourself unable to utilize all your annual leave within the year due to shared parental leave or other types of parental absence, the government recommends that employers permit the carryover of up to 28 days of statutory leave to the subsequent year.

For annual leave allowances that exceed the statutory minimum of 28 days, it’s at your employer’s discretion to decide how much of the additional contractual leave you can carry over. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult your contract or discuss with your employer directly.

In cases where you’re not permitted to carry forward your annual leave, it’s advisable to seek legal counsel. For further assistance, see the resources provided below.

Family Benefits Overview

Eligibility for Benefits

After your child’s birth, you’re eligible to claim Child Benefit. However, if a parent’s earnings exceed £60,000 annually (effective from April 2024), a high-income Child Benefit charge applies.

Tax Credits

Should you currently receive Child Tax Credit and/or Working Tax Credit, you might qualify for additional benefits with a new baby, income reduction, or if you’re receiving sick or maternity pay. Notably, the first £100 of your weekly Statutory Maternity Pay and all Maternity Allowance amounts are excluded from your income calculation for tax credit purposes, potentially increasing your entitlements during maternity leave. If you cease working, you can continue receiving Child Tax Credit. However, it’s crucial to seek advice before applying for Universal Credit, as it will terminate your existing tax credits, possibly to your disadvantage. For updates or to adjust your circumstances, contact the Tax Credit Helpline at 0345 300 3900 or visit:

Universal Credit

Universal Credit may be an option if you’re unemployed, have a low income, are on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), or during maternity leave, assuming you’re not already receiving Working/Child Tax Credit. While Statutory Sick Pay and Statutory Maternity Pay are mostly disregarded for Universal Credit claims, Maternity Allowance is considered ‘unearned income’ and deducted. If you’re the primary caregiver for a child under three or your capacity to work is limited by illness or disability, you’re not expected to seek employment.

For detailed information on Universal Credit, refer to: To calculate potential benefits, visit Assistance with Universal Credit applications is available via the Citizens Advice Help to Claim service: in England (0800 144 8444), Wales (0800 024 1220), Scotland (0800 023 2581), and Northern Ireland (Advice NI 0800 915 4604).

Food Vouchers and Sure Start/Best Start Maternity Grants

If you or your partner are beneficiaries of Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support, or income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, you might qualify for Healthy Start vouchers and a Sure Start Maternity Grant. This grant amounts to £500 for your first child or for your first multiple birth if there are no other children under 16 in your household. You can apply using form SF100 (Sure Start), which is obtainable from your local Jobcentre Plus or online [here](, from 11 weeks before your expected delivery date up to 6 months after your baby is born.

Residents of Scotland may be eligible for Best Start Grants and Best Start Foods, for more information visit: and Council Tax Assistance

Additionally, your local council might offer support through discretionary housing payments, a council tax reduction, or local welfare assistance schemes.

What options are available if I’m unable to return to work post-maternity leave due to health reasons?

Should you find yourself unable to resume work owing to health issues after concluding your maternity leave, you might be eligible for sick pay from your employer. It’s advisable to review your employment contract to determine if you’re entitled to contractual sick pay. In the absence of contractual sick pay entitlement, you may qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), though meeting the criteria for SSP immediately following maternity leave can be challenging, as detailed in prior sections.

For those receiving Working Tax Credit, you are considered to be working your usual hours while receiving Statutory Sick Pay, allowing you to continue benefiting from Working Tax Credit for up to 28 weeks.

Individuals not receiving Working/Child Tax Credit might have the option to apply for Universal Credit, based on your family’s income, during the period you are compensated with Statutory Sick Pay.

If you’re ineligible for Statutory Sick Pay post-maternity leave, or if you’ve already received your full SSP entitlement, you could qualify for Universal Credit, depending on your family income, or potentially explore options like New Style-Employment Support.


In conclusion, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with your rights and entitlements as a parent-to-be or new parent, as there are various benefits available to support you and your family during this significant life event. It’s recommended to seek advice from relevant organizations, such as the government website, Citizens Advice Bureau, or legal counsel if necessary.

Additionally, it’s crucial to stay informed and up-to-date on any changes or updates to these benefits, as policies and eligibility criteria may change over time. By taking advantage of available resources and seeking assistance when needed, you can ensure that your family receives the support they need during this special time. Remember, you don’t have to navigate this alone – there are resources and support systems in place to help.


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