Where an employee is off sick when their maternity leave is due to start, will their sick pay continue or will they transfer to maternity pay?

An employee's maternity leave period generally commences on their chosen start date. However, maternity leave will be triggered early if the employee is absent wholly or partly because of pregnancy after the beginning of the fourth week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC). In these circumstances, maternity leave will commence automatically on the day following the first day of absence in that period. For example, if the employee's maternity leave was due to start one week before their EWC but they are off sick for a pregnancy-related reason in the third week before the EWC, maternity leave and statutory maternity pay will start automatically on the day after the first day of illness, so sick pay will cease at this point. The employee must notify their employer that they are absent from work wholly or partly because of pregnancy and of the date on which their absence for that reason began as soon as is reasonably practicable. Odd days of pregnancy-related illness may be disregarded at the employer's discretion if the employee wishes to defer the start of their maternity leave period.

These statutory provisions do not apply to sickness absence that is unrelated to the employee's pregnancy, in which case the employee can remain on sick leave and receive sick pay right up to the date they notified as the date on which they intend their maternity leave to start.

If the employee is off sick when their maternity leave is due to start and the maternity leave start date is before the beginning of the fourth week before the EWC, the maternity leave will still start on the date the employee notified as the commencement date, regardless of the fact that they are off sick or the reason for the sickness absence. As the statutory maternity pay period can start on any day of the week to coincide with the date that the employee commences their maternity leave, sick pay will cease as maternity leave and pay start.