Blogs > Life in the UK / Useful Information

Life as a working parent within the NHS

  • July 23, 2018

Life as a working parent within the NHS | BDI Resourcing

If you become pregnant whilst working for the NHS or any other employer in the UK for that matter – you are entitled to 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave if you give the correct notice. However, you do not have to take the full 52 weeks if you do not want to. But the first 2 weeks following the birth must be taken.

Please note that to qualify for Maternity leave within the NHS you will have to have worked a minimum of a years’ service.

In today’s post, we provide you with a guide to maternity leave in the UK: the different forms of pay, paternity leave, your rights as a parent working within the NHS, and top tips on going back to work after maternity leave.

The UK offers three types of paternity pay:

  1. Statutory maternity pay: the standard type of maternity pay – if you are entitled to this it is the legal minimum your employer can pay you
  2. Contractual maternity pay: some employers offer this instead of statutory maternity pay – your employment contract or company maternity policy should tell you if yours does
  3. Maternity Allowance: You might get this from the government if you cannot get statutory maternity pay from your employer

You should also see what other help and benefits you are entitled to – such as Child Tax Credit, Healthy Start Vouchers, and a Sure Start grant. You can claim some benefits before you give birth.

  1. Statutory Maternity Pay

This is the main type of maternity pay that most women get. Your employer must pay this if:

  • You work for your employer in the 15th week before your baby is due and have worked for them for at least 26 weeks before that
  • Your average pay, before tax, is at least £116 a week

Telling your employer, you are pregnant

Pregnant employees have the right to 52 weeks of maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ordinary maternity leave and the second 26 weeks as additional maternity leave.

Whilst there is no minimum length of service required to take maternity leave, if you are pregnant you must tell your employer at least 15 weeks before the baby is due:

  • That you are pregnant
  • When the expected week of childbirth is (please note an employer can request a medical certificate that confirms this)
  • The date you intend to start maternity leave (normally no date which is earlier than the beginning of the 11th week before the baby is due)

If you want to change the start date of your maternity leave you must give your employer 28 days’ notice or mutually agree on a new date.

Once you are happy to tell your employer you are pregnant (for example, after your 12-week scan) it is best to let them know in writing and to keep a copy. After you tell your employer you are pregnant, you are entitled to rights whilst you are pregnant at work. These rights include protection from discrimination and paid time off for antenatal appointments.

Don’t worry about telling your employer you are pregnant. It is discrimination to dismiss you, cut your hours or treat you unfairly in any other way because of your pregnancy.

  1. Contractual Maternity Pay

Some jobs give you contractual maternity pay as a benefit of working there. What you get will depend on your employer, but you should never be worse off than if you just got statutory maternity pay.

Check your contract or ask HR whether you get contractual maternity pay.

You might get contractual maternity pay even if you wouldn’t be able to get statutory maternity pay. In this case, you might be able to get Maternity Allowance as well.

You should note that the NHS is notorious for generous employee benefits, and this usually includes maternity policy – so have a read of your contract to find out what you are entitled to.

  1. Maternity Allowance

If you cannot get statutory maternity pay you might be able to get Maternity Allowance. This pay comes from the government rather than your employer.

Women who get Maternity Allowance are typically employed or self-employed for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before their due date. To receive this pay, you will need to have earned at least £30 a week for at least 13 of those weeks.

Exemplar Maternity Pay within the NHS:

  • For the first eight weeks of absence, you will receive full pay, less any Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance (including any dependents’ allowances)
  • For the next 18 weeks, you will receive half of your full pay, plus any Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance (including any dependents’ allowances), providing the total receivable does not exceed full pay
  • For the next 13 weeks, you will receive any Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance that you are entitled to under the Statutory Scheme.

Paternity Leave

If you are a father-to-be or a pregnant woman’s partner you might be eligible for:

  • 1 or 2 weeks paid Paternity Leave
  • Paternity Pay
  • Shared Parental Leave and Pay

Please note you may not get both leave and pay, and there are rules on how to claim and when your leave can start.

Shared Parental Leave

You can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between you and your partner. You will need to share the pay and leave in the first year after your child is born.

For Shared Parental Leave to start:

The mother must either:

  • Return to work, which ends any maternity or adoption leave
  • Give their employer “binding notice” of the date when the mother plans to end their leave

Your rights as a parent

  1. Parental Leave

NHS hospitals and other employers offer parental leave which allows you to care for your child. Caring for your child does not mean being with them for 24 hours a day, however, often parents may wish to take parental leave to spend more time with their children in the early years or a more specific reason such as to accompany their child during a stay in hospital.

To qualify for parental leave, you must have worked for your employer continuously for a year by the time you want to take leave. You will be entitled to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave for each child who is under the age of 18 (pro-rata entitlement for part-time employees).

The leave can commence once the child is born, or as soon as the employee has completed a years’ service, whichever is later.

Each parent can take up to four weeks of parental leave for each child in a year, but individual employers may agree to increase that.  It must be taken in whole weeks rather than in individual days unless the employer agrees otherwise or if the child is disabled.  A week for these purposes equals the length of time an employee normally works over seven days, e.g. if an employee works four days a week, one week of parental leave equals four days.

  1. Requesting flexible working hours

Furthermore, if you are parents of children aged 16 and under, or of disabled children aged 18 and under, you will be entitled to request a flexible working pattern.

You should ask your trust about their policy on flexible working.

Tips for returning to work after maternity leave

  1. Fill the confidence gap

Transitioning back into the workplace after having a baby can be difficult and many women find their confidence takes a dip when they go back to work.

Some tips that can help avoid that confidence dip:

  • Consider staying in touch with work – this does not have to be every week, but whatever feels comfortable to you. If possible, meet with colleagues for lunch or have a coffee with your boss a few weeks before going back – it can make that first day far less daunting.
  • Give yourself time to settle back in – leave your out-of-office response switched on for the first day or two so that you have a chance to read e-mails and re-acquaint yourself with the world of work.
  • Ask for help – you have been out of the office for months and so it is no wonder you will feel out of the loop. Ask for people to update you and you will feel more at ease.
  1. Supersize your lunchtime

When you go back to work, there are lots of things you can get done at lunchtime to free up time at home:

  • Do your online grocery shopping, online banking or any shopping in town you may need to do
  • Book the kids’ medical appointments
  • Do something for yourself – get your nails done, take an exercise class or go for a walk or run
  1. Be good to yourself

Going back to work after maternity leave can be exciting but also tiring. So, in the first few weeks be sure to look after yourself in the midst of taking care of your children and doing your job.

  • Sleep – ensure you get enough of it. Trying to function on minimal sleep will not help you, your family or work
  • Relax – Keep your weekends free to do some organising and relaxing
  • Talk – connect with friends or colleagues in the same situation – try and find a balance between work and home by listening to your friends’

Please note that we have taken this information from Citizens Advice Bureau– if you want personal information on what to expect on your maternity leave please contact your HR department from your hospital as every Trust is different.

If you are an international doctor who is interested in relocating to the UK and working within the NHS send your CV to [email protected] – and we will be happy to help you.

Come and say hello! Join our Facebook Group IMG Advisor. Here you will have access to frequent blog posts, the opportunity to ask questions and meet other IMGs!

References (2018). Maternity pay - what you're entitled to. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jul. 2018].

The Royal College of Nursing. (2018). Agenda for Change | Advice guides | Royal College of Nursing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jul. 2018].


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