Can an employee take on paid work during her maternity leave?

An employee can agree with her employer to take on paid work for up to 10 days during her maternity leave without that work bringing her period of maternity leave to an end and without the loss of a week's statutory maternity pay. Work is still prohibited during the compulsory maternity leave period, which is the two weeks immediately following childbirth. Any work carried out on any day constitutes a day's work for the purpose of the 10-day calculation (even if the employee works only for a few hours) and any work done does not have the effect of extending the total duration of the statutory maternity leave period. 'Work' may include training or any other activity undertaken to assist the employee in keeping in touch with the workplace, such as attending conferences, appraisals or team meetings.

Any work undertaken must be by agreement between the employer and the employee. There is no right for an employer to demand that an employee undertake such work, nor is there a right for the employee to do such work.

It is also a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee whether the days should be worked as a single block or separately. The amount to be paid to an employee for working during her maternity leave is also a matter for agreement between the parties and should reflect the nature of the work and the amount done. The employer will need to consider how any contractual payment for work done on a particular day will work alongside any statutory maternity pay due.

Once the 10 keeping-in-touch days have been exhausted, the employee will lose a week's statutory maternity pay for any week in which she works for her employer during the statutory maternity pay period.

If the employee works for another employer during the statutory maternity pay period but before the baby is born, the employer should carry on paying statutory maternity pay. If the employee works for another employer during the statutory maternity pay period but after the baby is born, the employer will need to check whether she worked for the other employer during the 15th week before the baby was due. If she did, statutory maternity pay should be paid as usual. If, however, the employee is working for another employer for which she did not work during the 15th week before the baby was due, the employer must stop paying statutory maternity pay from the start of the week that the employee works for the other employer. It is up to the employee to inform her employer that she is working for someone else during her statutory maternity pay period.