All employees automatically qualify for 12 months maternity leave regardless of length of service. This consists of 26 weeks’ Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and a further 26 weeks’ Additional Maternity Leave (AML).
There is a compulsory maternity leave (CML) period, of 2 weeks following the birth (4 weeks if the woman works in a factory or similar environment), during which employees are not allowed to return to work. To permit her to do so is a criminal offence. The CML period runs concurrently with OML.
To have the benefit of maternity leave and to be protected in her return to work, a woman must have notified her employer of the fact that she is pregnant, and of the date of her commencement of maternity leave, by the end of the 15th week before the EWC (Qualifying Week) or, if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon as is reasonably practicable. There is no guidance as to what ‘reasonably practicable’ means here although it is likely to include where the employee is unaware she is pregnant.