Where an employee has been absent on maternity leave must she return to work for a particular period of time before qualifying for another period of maternity leave and pay?

No. An employee will be entitled to another period of maternity leave, even if she becomes pregnant again while on maternity leave. Depending on when the second baby is due this could mean that she returns to work for a short period of time before starting her second period of maternity leave. Alternatively, she might not have to return to work at all. This is more likely to be the case if she extends her absence by taking a period of parental leave following on immediately after her maternity leave or has some accrued holiday to use up.

The employee will not necessarily be entitled to statutory maternity pay during the second period of maternity leave. This is because to qualify for statutory maternity pay her average weekly earnings during the eight weeks up to and including the qualifying week must be at least the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions.