If an employee on maternity leave has said to her employer that she may not take the full 52 weeks, can she return earlier than the end of her additional maternity leave?

Employees are entitled to a total of 52 weeks' statutory maternity leave. If an employee intends to return to work earlier than the end of additional maternity leave, she must inform her employer of this by giving not less than eight weeks' notice of the date on which she intends to return (reg.11 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 (SI 1999/3312)). There is no requirement under the legislation for the notice to be in writing, although employers should encourage employees to provide notice in writing to avoid any uncertainty.

If an employee indicates that she may not take the full 52 weeks, the employer should ask her to give formal notice of the date on which she intends to return.

If an employee who has not given notice of an early return date attempts to return to work before the end of her additional maternity leave, the employer can require her to provide eight weeks' notice before she returns (or require that she return at the end of her additional maternity leave if this is less than eight weeks away). An employee who returns early without giving the correct notice is not entitled to be paid. However, the employer cannot insist on eight weeks' notice of an early return if it has failed to inform the employee of the date on which her additional maternity leave will end, on being informed of her intention to take maternity leave.