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Can My Boss Ask Me to Return Earlier or Later from My Maternity Leave?

By Principal Lawyer, Employment

No. You choose the date of your return from maternity leave, not your boss.

Before your maternity leave starts, you have to give your employer notice of your due date and the date when you want to start your maternity leave. It’s best to give this notice in writing, and you must tell your employer at least 15 weeks before your baby is due.

Your employer will then write to you within 28 days to give you formal confirmation of the start and end dates of your maternity leave. Your employer will assume that you will take your full 52 weeks maternity leave, unless you tell them that you want to return to work sooner.

Although your employer can’t change your return date, you can, even after you have left to go on maternity leave, provided you give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice of the change.

You can come back from your maternity leave earlier than planned, although you are not allowed to work in the two weeks after the birth. Or, you can end your maternity leave later, as long as you are still within 52 weeks of the date your maternity leave started.

What if you are still not ready to return to work after 52 weeks maternity leave? There are some options. Your holiday entitlement builds up while you are on maternity leave, and many women chose to take this holiday at the end of their maternity leave, giving more paid time off work. And, if you have worked for your employer for at least a year, you can request unpaid parental leave for between one and four weeks in a year, up to a maximum of 13 weeks for each child, or 18 weeks if your child is disabled. For the longer term, some employers may be willing to consider a career break.

But what if your employer really needs you while you are off? You can return to work for up to 10 days during your maternity leave without your maternity leave or pay being affected. That could be to help out your employer, or to help you get back into the swing of things. These ‘keeping in touch’ or KIT days are purely voluntary though, and your employer can’t insist that you come in to work at any time during your maternity leave. If you do, make sure you agree what you’ll be paid for working on a KIT day.

If your employer is insisting on you returning to work earlier or later than you planned, you may have a claim against your employer, and you should seek legal advice promptly.

Emma Hawksworth is an Employment Lawyer at Slater and Gordon in London. Emma advises employees and employee organisations on employment law with emphasis on maternity discrimination and flexible working.

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