The Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999

Last updated: December 2020 | 3 min read

The Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999 sets out parental leave rights for employees in the UK.

This article summarises the key terms of the Regulations.

Employment contracts and staff employment policies should be updated for the following. If they are not, the employee still retains the rights by law.

Leave periods and timeframes for notifying the employer

An employee is entitled to 18 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 29 weeks of additional leave if she has been working for the business for more than one year. Ordinary leave is paid; additional leave is unpaid.

However, she must tell the employer at least 15 weeks in advance of taking the leave.

The date that the leave starts can be changed if the employee gives 28 days of notice in writing any time before the expected week of birth.

Leave can start any time in the 11 weeks before the expected week of birth, but will start automatically if the employee is absent “wholly or partly because of pregnancy” in the four weeks before the expected week.

An employee must take at least 2 weeks of leave, or 4 if she works in a factory. Employees in other industries may be required to take even longer.

Return to work

An employee should give 28 days of notice in advance of returning to work, unless the full period of leave has been taken, or the employer is otherwise aware that the employee is returning on that date. If she gives less than 21 days of notice, then the employer has no obligation to pay her for the additional days worked.

She has the right to return to the same job after taking just ordinary maternity leave, and the right to be employed in another suitable and appropriate job if she returns after taking additional maternity leave.

She should be remunerated with the same salary and benefits as she was before for the same job, and no changes should be made to her employment contract terms.

If the employee takes additional maternity leave, then she is obliged to notify the employer as to the date that she will return to work, if the employer asks her to do so. If she fails to do this, she loses any rights to dismissal and detriment protection.


Adoptive parents (people who gain parental responsibility) may also take maternity or paternity leave. He or she must have been employed for at least one year.

The amount of leave is a maximum of thirteen weeks for any individual child.

The employee is not entitled to parental leave after the 5th birthday of the child, or if child is disabled, his or her 18th birthday.

Redundancy and dismissal

An employee who takes additional maternity leave retains all the right to mutual trust and confidence, compensation for redundancy, disciplinary and grievance procedures and is bound by rights to good faith.  

An employee is dismissed unfairly if the reason is one of the following:

  • pregnancy
  • birth
  • suspension on medical grounds under ERA s66 (2)
  • issue of notification to the employer to take ordinary maternity leave
  • seeking to take additional maternity leave
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