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Maternity leave and maternity pay

Laura MerryleesEditor's message: With women constituting around half of the UK workforce, and the majority becoming pregnant at some point during their working life, most employers will need to manage employees through the transition from pregnancy to maternity leave, and then back to work, on a regular basis.

Regardless of length of service, all pregnant employees are entitled to a year's statutory maternity leave. However, entitlement to statutory maternity pay is limited to those with at least 26 weeks' service into the qualifying week and average weekly earnings of at least the lower earnings limit for national insurance purposes. Statutory maternity pay is payable for 39 weeks - six weeks at 90% of the employee's average earnings, followed by the remainder at a lower flat rate. However, many organisations choose to offer enhanced maternity pay above the statutory minimum, viewing this as a key way of improving the maternity experience for employees, and ensuring that the organisation retains their skills and experience in the longer term.

Laura Merrylees, employment law editor

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