Maternity leave and pay

This guidance is intended for pregnant employees and their managers and sets out the maternity leave and pay entitlements, and other rights of pregnant women and new mothers. It is essential that you read all the maternity guidance. 


With effect from 1 January 2020 there is no length of service eligibility criterion.  All employees who have started work with the University by their EWC will qualify for the University’s enhanced contractual benefits.  If you were already expecting a baby at the date that you started work for the University, and your baby is due to be born after 1 January 2020 please contact your local HR contact to find out what entitlements you will have.



Throughout the guidance reference is made to the term 'employee', which means that the individual holds a University contract of employment with the Chancellor, Masters and  Scholars of the University and therefore, has entitlement to employment benefits. 

There are differences between maternity leave (which all pregnant employees are entitled to) and maternity pay (for which there are qualifying criteria).  

Overview of maternity leave 

All pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks' statutory maternity leave, no matter how long they have worked for the University. It is up to the individual employee to decide how much maternity leave she wishes to take (up to a maximum of 52 weeks), but the law requires that a minimum of two weeks' leave must be taken immediately following the birth of the child. This is known as compulsory maternity leave. The purpose of maternity leave is to allow the mother to give birth and to recover from giving birth to her baby, as well as to bond with, and care for, her new child. 

Overview of maternity pay 

There are two types of maternity pay:  

  • Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is a benefit paid by the state for up to 39 weeks, subject to eligibility criteria. When the mother is employed the benefit is paid via the employers’ payroll. In order to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) an employee needs to have 26 weeks continuous employment with their employer at the 15th week before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC) and give correct and timely notices to her department in respect of her maternity leave. 

  • Contractual maternity pay is pay which an employer can offer, over and above the statutory rate. The University’s contractual maternity pay scheme is exceptionally generous offering up to 26 weeks leave at the rate of full pay. During this period any SMP to which the employee is eligible is considered to form part of the payment (it is not paid in addition to full pay).  

Guidance on entitlements and obligations on the employee and her department, before, during and after her maternity leave are outlined in the relevant sections of this guide.


Where a surrogacy arrangement is planned, particular rules apply. Staff should speak to their Departmental Administrator (or equivalent) who should in turn seek advice from their HR Business Partner, who will advise on a case-by-case basis.