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Sweeping maternity law reforms come into force

Sweeping maternity law reforms come into force
A series of reforms to maternity laws come into force today, as part of government moves to improve the lot of working mothers.

Chief among the changes under the Work and Families Act is the extension of the maternity leave period during which mothers are entitled to pay from six to nine months, with 90 per cent of their salaries paid for the first six weeks, and a maximum of £112.75 thereafter.

Women on maternity leave will also be allowed to work a maximum of ten days without affecting their eligibility for statutory maternity pay.

Meanwhile, fathers will continue to benefit with the right to ask for up to 2 weeks paid paternity leave (paid at the rate of £112.75 per week). The Act also contains a provision for 26 weeks unpaid paternity leave, which continues to remain a prospect for the future, and is currently expected to be reviewed in 2009.

The period of notice pregnant women must give to return to work early from maternity leave has been extended from 28 days to two months under the new regulations, in response to calls from employers to better enable them to plan staffing levels during maternity leave periods.

News of the reforms comes after a survey of 1,500 women conducted by the Institute of Young Payroll Professionals found that two-thirds were not aware of the changes to the law.