Living in Europe | Day care, schooling & family related issues | United Kingdom

If you or a member of your family are pregnant, there are plenty of sources of information and advice on the type of care you are entitled to in the UK.

Maternity rights for employees

Women who are pregnant and employed in the UK have rights under their employment contracts. The information on payment detailed below refers to statutory minimum pay and leave offered to employees.

You are entitled to the following rights based on UK statutory maternity rights:

  • Protection against unfair treatment or dismissal
  • Paid time off for antenatal care
  • Maternity leave of 52 weeks
  • Maternity pay benefits, depending on your status.

If you have recently come to the UK you may still qualify for maternity pay depending on your employer and the amount of insurance contributions you have made in the UK or from other countries.

To qualify for maternity rights you must:

  • earn an average of £120 per week
  • have worked for your employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week of the pregnancy.
  • provide the employer with the correct notice and proof of pregnancy

If you meet the above criteria, you should also be eligible for receiving SMP for your pregnancy leave. Individuals receiving SMP can receive:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks.

Some companies have their own maternity pay schemes, which will be at least as high as Statutory Maternity Pay.

If you don’t qualify for SMP you might get MA. It is currently £138.18 per week or 90 per cent of your average earnings, whichever is lower, and can be taken for up to 39 weeks.

To apply you must have worked at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the week your baby is due. Within 13 of the 66 weeks, you must have earned at least £30 per week to be eligible for Maternity Allowance.

Paternity rights for employees

You may be entitled to either one or two weeks paid paternity leave at any time up to the 56th day after either the birth or the expected date of birth if the child is premature.

To qualify for this you must:

  • have, or expect to have, responsibility for the child’s upbringing.
  • be the biological father of the child or the mother’s husband or partner.
  • have worked continuously for your employer for 26 weeks into the 15th week before the baby is due.

The statutory weekly rate of Paternity Pay is £151.20, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

Any money you get is paid in the same way as your wages, for example monthly or weekly. Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

Adoptive rights for employees

If you are adopting a child and are employed, you (or your partner if you have one) may be entitled to adoption leave (up to 52 weeks adoption leave and up to 39 weeks adoption pay). Adoption pay is again at a current rate of £138.18 a week, or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

Parental leave

Parental leave is unpaid leave you can take to care for your child. The amount of time you are able to take off work is dependent on the ages of the children under your care.


To be eligible to take parental leave, you must:

  • have been an employee at the same company for a year or more
  • be legally responsible for the upbringing of a child

If you meet the criteria above, you should be entitled to take up to 18 weeks

You are able to take the following leave:

  • 18 weeks of unpaid leave in total for each child up until their fifth birthday
  • if the child is disabled you should be entitled to take up to 18 weeks leave until their 18th birthday
  • you cannot take more than four weeks leave in any one year.

For all of these entitlements you must inform your employer of your wish to take leave well in advance.

Will my child be entitled to British Citizenship?

Since 1 January 1983, children born in the UK do not have the automatic right to British Citizenship. However, if you are ordinarily resident in the UK and not restricted to how long you can stay here, you can apply for your child’s British citizenship.

Under British law, a child can hold dual nationality, but under some other countries’ laws this is not possible. Therefore if you want your child to have dual nationality you should check with your country of origin whether this is allowed.

Useful Links

External Links