Working parents

Last updated:

Maternity leave FAQ

If you are considering starting a family or are pregnant we strongly advise you to contact us for individual advice.

You can call one of our advisers on 0300 123 1233.

Get information on your rights and responsibilities as soon as you can, preferably before becoming pregnant. There may be circumstances in which maternity pay would have to be repaid to the employing authority or trust, for example if you failed to return to work after giving notice to do so.

Our FAQs give general guidance only and should not be treated as a complete and authoritative statement of the NHS maternity leave agreement.

 

  • When I am on maternity leave who will be responsible for paying for my cover and how long will it be paid for?

    This is a matter for negotiation and agreement within your partnership. A clause covering this should be included in your partnership agreement.

    Arrangements for maternity pay for partners can vary widely between practices because partners are not subject to all the provisions of employment law.  

    Importantly, partners need to ensure that they are happy with:

    •  the length of the leave; and
    • notice required to take the leave

    As well as which party (absent partner or partnership):

    • arranges the cover;
    • how cover costs are borne;
    • which party will receive any reimbursement monies (if any) for each type of leave and which party will cover any shortfall; 
    • whether profit share/drawings will be affected; and
    • any other relevant provisions

    In order to maintain the level of service the practice normally provides where a GMS practice engages a locum; a salaried GP under a fixed term contract; or uses the services of a GP performer who is a party to the contract; or who is already employed or engaged by the contractor, to cover a GP partner’s maternity, paternity or adoption leave, reimbursement of the cost for providing GP performer cover may be claimed under the Statement of Financial Entitlements.

    This reimbursement will cover both external locums and cover provided by salaried GPs on a fixed term contract or existing GPs within the practice who do not already work full time.  

    Reimbursement will be the lower of:

    • £1,143,06 (maximum payment per week in respect of the first two weeks) and;
    • £1,751.52 (maximum payment per week in respect of any week thereafter where reimbursement is provided), or
    • the actual invoiced costs during that period

    The rates are applicable from 1 April 2018.  

    [The rates applicable from April 2013 until 31 March 2018 were £1,131.74 per week for the first 2 weeks and £1,734.18 thereafter, per week.]

    The decision on the financial assistance to be granted will be made by the commissioner.

    The same should apply to PMS practices who will also need to reach agreement with the commissioner.

     
  • Does annual leave accrue while a doctor is on maternity leave?

    For doctors who are subject to the provisions of the NHS scheme annual leave will continue to accrue during maternity leave, whether paid or unpaid.

    Where the amount of accrued annual leave would exceed normal carry over provisions, it may be mutually beneficial to both the employer and employee for the employee to take annual leave before and or after the formal (paid and unpaid) maternity leave period.

    The amount of annual leave to be taken in this way, or carried over, should be discussed and agreed between the employee and the employer. Payment in lieu may be considered as an option where accrual of annual leave exceeds normal carry over provisions.

    Doctors who are not entitled to the NHS scheme but to the statutory provisions employees on maternity leave keep their entitlement to statutory annual leave throughout the ordinary and additional maternity leave.

    If the employee is also entitled to contractual annual leave on top of the statutory leave she will continue to accrue this additional, contractual entitlement during ordinary maternity leave. She does not, however, have an entitlement to continue accruing contractual annual leave during additional maternity leave unless she has agreed otherwise with her employer.

    We strongly advise members who are considering starting a family or are pregnant to contact the BMA for individual advice. Call us on 0300 123 1233.

     

  • Maternity leave for salaried GPs

    I am a salaried GP, what maternity leave am I entitled to?

    The minimum entitlement of any employee is the statutory maternity provisions. Any enhancement of those provisions will be dependent on the contract of employment and what employees are able to negotiate. 

     

    Your contract

    GMS salaried GPs should be employed on the model contract that was negotiated between the BMA and the NHS Confederation. Those salaried GPs who are employed by a PMS practice who has signed the 2015/16 agreement should be employed on terms no less favourable than the model contract.

    The provisions applicable to those who are not covered by this agreement will depend on their contract of employment. We would encourage practices to apply no less favourable terms than those in the model contract.

     

    The General Whitley Council Handbook (GWC)

    Under the model salaried GP contract, salaried GPs are entitled to the provisions of section 6 of the General Whitley Council Handbook (GWC). This can be confusing since the GWC Handbook no longer applies to non-doctor NHS employees and is no longer being updated. Nevertheless, it is still applicable in this context as it is explicitly referred to in the model salaried GP contract.

    When reading section 6 it is important to remember that it was written for NHS hospital doctors rather than salaried GPs. Also, it must be read in conjunction with paragraph 1.7 of the model contract. Furthermore the BMA’s legal view is that where there is any inconsistency between the GWC Handbook requirements and the provisions of the model salaried GP contract, the model contract prevails.

     

    Your entitlements

    In line with the statutory requirements, a salaried GP is entitled under the model salaried GP contract to 12 months of maternity leave. 

    Under the model salaried GP contract, a salaried GP will be entitled to contractual maternity pay provided that she has 12 months of continuous NHS service at the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth. If this condition is met, the pay will be: 

    • for the first eight weeks of absence, full pay less any statutory maternity pay (SMP) or maternity allowance (MA) receivable; 
    • for the next 14 weeks, half of full pay plus any SMP or MA receivable provided the total amount does not exceed full pay;
    • the next 17 weeks at SMP or MA (assuming the employee has qualified for the same)

    The GWC only provides for a further four weeks of SMP or MA, as that was the statutory provision at the time. However, the statutory entitlement is now to a total of 39 weeks’ pay, leaving an entitlement to 17 weeks statutory pay following the payment of full and half pay set out above. The statutory entitlement will take precedence over GWC.

    With the prior arrangement of the employer the entitlement may spread differently across the maternity leave period.

     

    Notifying your employer

    To receive the above benefits the salaried GP must provide the employer with the following notification requirements: 

    • of her intention to take maternity leave;
    • of the date she wishes to start her maternity leave;
    • that she intends to return to work with the same or another NHS employer for at least three months after her maternity leave has ended;
    • a MATB1 form from her midwife or GP giving the expected date of childbirth. Such notification must be provided before the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (or if this is not possible, as soon as is reasonably practicable thereafter).

    If the salaried GP wishes to change her maternity leave start date, she should notify the employer at least 28 days beforehand (or if this is not possible, as soon as is reasonably practicable beforehand).

     

    Enhancing your pay arrangements

    When the model salaried GP contract was introduced in April 2004 the maternity provisions were consistent with hospital doctors. However, since then hospital doctors have received the following enhanced maternity pay arrangements:

    • for the first eight weeks of absence, full pay less any SMP or MA receivable;
    • for the next 18 weeks, half of full pay plus any SMP or MA receivable provided that the total receivable does not exceed full pay;
    • 13 weeks’ SMP or MA depending on whether they meet the eligibility criteria

    This is more advantageous in that it provides an extra four weeks at half of full pay plus any SMP or MA that is due. Salaried GPs employed under the model contract and their employers may wish to renegotiate an improvement in their maternity terms to reflect this more favourable provision.

    Where a salaried GP does not have enough service to qualify for the scheme that is being applied to them they may be entitled to the statutory provisions. For those salaried GPs not on the model terms their entitlement will depend on their contract of employment.

     

    Access advice about your maternity pay

    We strongly advise those members who are considering starting a family or are pregnant to contact the BMA for individual advice on 0300 123 1233.

  • When does sick leave become maternity leave?

    If you are entitled to the provisions of the NHS scheme they state that if an employee is off work ill, or becomes ill, with a pregnancy related illness during the last four weeks before the expected week of childbirth, maternity leave will normally commence at the beginning of the fourth week before the expected week of childbirth or the beginning of the next week after the employee last worked whichever is the later.

    Absence prior to the last four weeks before the expected week of childbirth, supported by a medical statement of incapacity for work, or a self certificate, shall be treated as sick leave in accordance with the normal sick leave provisions.

    Odd days of pregnancy related illness during this period may be disregarded if the employee wishes to continue to work until the maternity leave start date previously notified to the employer.

    Where you are not subject to provisions of the NHS scheme but are entitled to the statutory provisions, ie. statutory maternity pay or the maternity allowance illness not related to pregnancy will be subject to the normal sickness provisions. For those illnesses that are pregnancy related the maternity leave period will automatically start on the day after the first day of absence following the beginning of the fourth week before the expected week of childbirth.

    For GP specialty registrars who are covered by the Directions to Health Education England (GP Registrars) 2013 and the NHS Litigation Authority (GP Registrars) 2013, a doctor who is on sick leave prior to the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and childbirth occurs, maternity leave commences from the day after the actual day of childbirth and any earlier absence supported by a medical certificate or self-certificate is treated as sick leave.

    If the GP specialty registrar works in the actual week of childbirth and is therefore entitled to payment in respect of work done, maternity leave should start on the first day of absence.

    Where a GP specialty registrar is off sick with a pregnancy-related illness during the last four weeks before the expected week of childbirth, maternity leave will start at the beginning of the 4th week before the expected week of childbirth or the beginning of the next week after the GP specialty registrar last worked, whichever is the later.  Absence before the four weeks before the expected week of childbirth, supported by a medical certificate or self-certificate shall be treated as sick leave.

    We strongly advise those members who are considering starting a family or are pregnant to contact the BMA for individual advice. Call us on 0300 123 1233.

  • What happens if my contract expires either before or during maternity leave?

    Under the NHS Scheme, employees with a fixed term or training contract which expires after the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth shall have their contract extended so as to allow them to receive the 52 weeks which includes paid contractual and statutory maternity pay, and the remaining 13 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

    Absence on maternity leave (paid or unpaid) up to 52 weeks before a further NHS appointment shall not constitute a break in service.

    We strongly advise those members who are considering starting a family or are pregnant to contact the BMA for individual advice. Call us on 0300 123 1233. 

     

  • What period is used to calculate statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance?

    There are two different calculations depending on whether you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or the Maternity Allowance (MA).

    Doctors who are covered by the NHS maternity provisions and are eligible for SMP, or those who are not covered by the NHS maternity provisions but have enough service for SMP, (continuous employment for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of child birth (the qualifying week) and average weekly earnings of at least the lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions in the eight weeks up to and including the qualifying week), maternity pay is calculated on the basis of average weekly earnings of the doctors' total gross earnings from the employer (and any associated employer) from the eight weeks ending with the qualifying week, which is the 15th week before the expected week of child birth.

    Gross earnings include regular contractual payments such as London weighting and banding supplements, for junior doctors. The relevant period ends with the last normal pay day on or before the end of the qualifying week and begins after the last normal pay day at least 8 weeks earlier.

    It is very important when considering when to have a baby that you ensure that you are employed and earning a salary during the maternity pay calculation period as this is what will be used to calculate your maternity pay. If you are not working during that period then you will not be entitled to maternity pay.

    Doctors who are covered by the NHS maternity provisions and do not have enough service for SMP, but qualify for the MA or for those who are not covered by the NHS maternity provisions and meet the criteria for eligibility for the Maternity Allowance, an employee must have worked (employed or self employed) for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the expected week of confinement.  This is known as the 'test period' and it can be any 26 weeks during that period. It does not have to be consecutive or with the same employer.

    You must have earned no less than the maternity allowance threshold, which is £30.00 per week. So if you have earned at least £30.00 per week for 26 weeks some time during the 66 week period you can claim maternity allowance.

    The calculation period for the maternity allowance is any 13 weeks within the test period, and you can stipulate which weeks should be chosen. The 13 weeks do not need to be consecutive or spent with the same employer.

    Earnings from all the jobs in the chosen 13 weeks will be added together and divided by 13 to work out the average and you will receive either the standard rate of maternity allowance or 90% of the average weekly earnings, whichever is the lowest.

    Only if you have not worked at all during that period will you get nothing as there is nothing on which to base the maternity allowance.

    We strongly advise those members who are considering starting a family or are pregnant to contact the BMA for individual advice. Call us on 0300 123 1233.

  • Maternity rights for partners in general practice

    When I am on maternity leave who will be responsible for paying for my locum and how long will it be paid for?

    This is a matter for negotiation and agreement within your partnership, and a clause covering this should be included in your partnership agreement.

    GMS practices will be entitled to an allowance from their Primary Care Organisation for the cost of gp locum cover for maternity, paternity and adoption leave.

    Reimbursement will be the lower of:

    • £1,131.74 for the first two weeks and £1,734.18 for weeks three to 26
    • the actual invoiced costs during that period

    Reimbursement is intended to cover external locums and cover also provided by GPs already working within the practice (existing employees or partners), but who do not work full time (ie. payment will be made equally where there is organisation flexibility/capacity within the practice to be able to perform the duties of the GP on leave in order to maintain the delivery of services).

    PMS practices will need to reach agreement with their Primary Care Organisation.

    Further guidance can be found in the joint GPC and NHS employers guide: 2015/16 GMS contract (pages 19-20)

     

    A female staff employee is going on maternity leave - what are her entitlements in respect of leave?

    The minimum entitlement she will receive will be the statutory maternity provisions.  Some employers may be more generous.  All employees are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave made up of 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks additional maternity leave. 

    Two weeks leave must be taken after the baby is born.  There is no service requirement to qualify for this entitlement.

    Where an employee is entitled to statutory maternity pay or the maternity allowance during her maternity leave, the entitlement will be for up to 39 weeks.

    For Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) this is made up of the first six weeks being paid at 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings and the remaining 33 weeks are paid at the lesser of the SMP standard rate or 90% of the woman's average weekly earnings. Those who are not entitled to SMP but are entitled to the maternity allowance may claim this for up to 39 weeks.

    Go to our GPs and practice staff guidance or our contracts page for GP partners

     

    I am a salaried GP what maternity leave am I entitled to?

    If you are employed by a GMS practice or a primary care organisation you should have a contract which is in line with the model contract negotiated between the BMA and the NHS Confederation. This includes reference to the General Whitley Council Section 6 provisions for maternity leave and pay. At the time the contract was agreed the maternity provisions were included in the General Whitley Council Conditions of Service,

    The provisions have subsequently been transferred to temporary appendix vi(i) of the Terms and Conditions of Service for Hospital Medical and Dental Staff and Doctors in Public Health Medicine and the Community Health Service (England and Wales) which supersedes Section 6.

    Therefore, salaried GPs on the model contract will be subject to the original Whitley provisions rather than the transferred provisions unless they negotiate improved terms.

    Under Whitley the maternity pay will be made up of:

    • eight weeks full pay (less SMP or the maternity allowance)
    • 14 weeks half pay (plus SMP and the maternity allowance provided the total does not exceed full pay) and
    • four weeks at the standard rate of SMP or maternity allowance.

    However as the overall entitlement has increased to 39 weeks the SMP and maternity allowance should be payable for 17 weeks.

    Under the NHS Scheme maternity pay is made up of eight weeks full pay and 18 weeks half pay. However, we would advise salaried GPs to try and negotiate the same provisions as their hospital colleagues and would encourage practices and Primary Care Organisations to apply those provisions. Where a salaried GP does not have enough service to qualify for Whitley or the NHS Scheme they may be entitled to the statutory provisions.

    Salaried GPs who are on Personal Medical Services contracts, entitlements to maternity leave and pay depend on the contract of employment negotiated.

    Salaried gps on personal medical services contracts should have no less favourable terms than in the model salaried gp contract for GMS salaried gps and those employed by Primary Care Organisations. 

    We would encourage practices to apply no less favourable terms than those applied to GMS salaried GPs.

    We strongly advise those members who are considering starting a family or are pregnant to contact the BMA for individual advice. Call the BMA on 0300 123 1233.

    Part 4, Section 15 of the GMS Statement of Financial Entitlements deals with payments for locums covering maternity, paternity and adoption leave. 

  • Maternity rights for GP specialty registrars

    How do I qualify?

    If you are doing the hospital part of your training you will be subject to the same rules as your other junior doctor colleagues.

    For the GP part of your training the entitlements are set down in the contract of employment. If your contract is with a lead NHS Trust then you will be subject to the same rules and entitlements as your junior doctors colleagues.  If you have a contract of employment with the gp practice then the terms will be set down in that contract, which in turn is governed by the Directions to Health Education England (GP Registrars) 2013 and the NHS Litigation Authority (GP Registrars) 2013.

    These provisions are similar to those for junior doctors as laid down in the temporary Appendix VI (i) of the Terms and Conditions of Service for Hospital Medical and Dental Staff and Doctors in Public Health Medicine and the Community Health Service (England and Wales) 2002, which has superseded Section 6 of the General Whitley Council Conditions of Service, and Schedule 13 of the Terms and Conditions of Service for NHS Doctors and Dentists in Training (England) 2016 who are on the new junior doctor contract.

    To qualify you must have 12 months' continuous service (which may be in one or more posts in an employing authority, a local authority, or as a GP registrar in general practice) without a break of over three months immediately before the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth.

    You must also continue to be employed by the GP Trainer until immediately before the beginning of the 11th week prior to the expected week of childbirth. 

    Notify your trainer, in writing, of your intention to take maternity leave and whether you intend to resume your traineeship with the same or another trainer before the end of the 15th week before childbirth (or as soon as is reasonably practicable if not possible). 

    Give your GP Trainer a statement from a registered medical practitioner or certified midwife indicating the expected date of confinement no later than 21 days before the start of maternity leave (or as soon as is reasonably practicable).

     

    What do I need to do?

    Call the BMA on 0300 123 1233 first and then talk to the practice manager.

     

    What are my maternity entitlements as a GP specialty registrar?

    If you are a GP specialty registrar doing the hospital part of your training you will be subject to the NHS Scheme provisions and if you qualify you will be entitled to 8 weeks full pay (less statutory maternity pay (SMP) or maternity allowance (MA) if receivable); 18 weeks half pay (plus SMP or MA receivable) and 13 weeks of SMP or MA that you are entitled to under the statutory scheme.

    As a GP specialty registrar undertaking the general practice part of your training you will have a contract either with the training practice or with a lead NHS Trust employer.

    If it is with a lead NHS Trust you will be subject to the provisions of the NHS Scheme as described above. 

    If it is with your general practice employer, then you will be subject to the provisions of the Directions to Health Education England (GP Registrars) 2013 and the NHS Litigation Authority (GP Registrars) 2013. 

    Although technically there is no automatic right to the NHS Scheme there has been a historical agreement with the health department that GP registrars' entitlements are in line with the NHS Scheme, which are laid down in the Directions to Health Education England (GP Registrars) 2013 and the NHS Litigation Authority (GP Registrars) 2013.

    Since 1 August 2007 if a GP specialty registrar fulfils the criteria they will receive the same entitlement to maternity pay as their hospital doctor colleagues.

    There is also provision within the Directions for GP Speciality Registrars to be granted by their practice 2 weeks paid paternity leave per birth and adoption leave and pay in line with the maternity provisions.

    Where there is no specific reference in the GP Specialty Registrar contract to either the General Whitley Council provisions or the NHS Scheme we would encourage you to try and negotiate similar terms with your training practice to those applied to your hospital doctor colleagues in line with the previous historical arrangement, and at the very least the provisions in the Directions which are generally similar to the NHS Scheme provisions.

    GP Trainers may need to discuss this with their Primary Care Organisation in terms of the funding.

    Important note
    The 15 week rule does not apply in Scotland. The Scottish Statement of Fees and Allowances, (paragraphs 38.26 (a) and (b) (Qualifying Conditions in Respect of GP Registrar Maternity Leave) specifies the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of confinement and this is further supported by the Scottish Executive Health Department circular PCS(GC)2003/1 issued on 19 September 2003. 

  • Maternity rights for GP retainees

    The retainee is an employee of the practice. Their contract, which should follow the BMA's model contract, should includes details of sick pay and maternity leave or pay entitlements. The practice will receive reimbursement from the NHS Commissioning Board for these. The BMA model contract is based on the model contract negotiated between the BMA and the NHS Confederation for salaried GPs and should be no less favourable.

    The salaried GP contract includes reference to the General Whitley Council Section 6 provisions for maternity leave and pay. At the time the contract was agreed the maternity provisions were included in the General Whitley Council Conditions of Service, Section 6.

    The provisions have subsequently been transferred to temporary appendix VI(i) of the Terms and Conditions of Service for Hospital Medical and Dental Staff and Doctors in Public Health Medicine and the Community Health Service (England and Wales) which supersedes Section 6. Therefore, salaried GPs and GP retainees on the model contract (or a similar contract making reference to the General Whitley Council) will be subject to the original Whitley provisions rather than the transferred provisions.

    This means that maternity pay will be made up of eight weeks full pay (less SMP or the maternity allowance); 14 weeks half pay (plus SMP and the maternity allowance provided the total does not exceed full pay) and four weeks at the standard rate of SMP or maternity allowance. Under the NHS Scheme maternity pay is made up of eight weeks full pay and 18 weeks half pay.

    However, we would advise salaried GPs and GP retainees to try and negotiate the same provisions as their hospital colleagues and would encourage practices and PCOs to apply those provisions.

    Note: If you are a GP retainee with an individual maternity leave query please call the BMA on 0300 123 1233.

  • Maternity rights for junior hospital doctors

    What happens if I feel I am unable to do my on-call duties while I am pregnant?

    Where an employee is pregnant, has recently given birth or is breastfeeding the employer should carry out a risk assessment of her working conditions. Where there is considered to be a risk to either the employee or the child the employer must take steps to remove that risk.

    If at any time you feel that you are unable to perform your on-call, or indeed any or all of your other normal duties, due to your pregnancy you should discuss this with your GP. If they agree they will provide you with a letter or certificate confirming the risk and recommending suspension from that duty.

    The Trust then has three options:

    • They can offer you alternative work for which you would receive your normal pay even where the work done would normally attract a lower rate of pay
    • If this is not practicable you could be exempted from the duties specified, e.g. on-call duties but will still continue to receive full pay
    • if neither option is available you will be suspended on full pay on health and safety grounds under Section 68 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

    These conditions will also apply to an employee who has recently given birth or is breastfeeding.

     

    Who will pay my maternity leave if I move to my next rotational post while pregnant?

    Normally, the Trust who were employing you at the 11th week before the expected week of the due date. There are, however, other issues relating to this and you should call the BMA on 0300 123 1233 for further information.

     

    Will I be expected to undertake extra training following a period of maternity leave?

    All types of absences, including maternity leave, will be considered by the ARCP panel. The trainee must advise their employing organisation and the Postgraduate Dean if they are going to take maternity leave.

    The Gold Guide ("A Reference Guide for Postgraduate Specialty Training in the UK") under paragraph 8.36 states that "if a trainee is taking time off from the training programme for sickness, jury service or maternity leave/paternity/adoption leave and the sum of these absences exceeds 14 days in any 12 month period, then a review of training should be undertaken and the expected end of training date adjusted if required".

    The panel will make a decision on an individual basis as to whether any additional training time is required. If a trainee believes that there are justifiable reasons why no further training time is necessary despite them being absent, then this should be considered by the ARCP panel.

    We strongly advise those members who are considering starting a family or are pregnant to contact the BMA for individual advice by calling us on 0300 123 1233.

  • Medical school maternity rights

    Medical school and University employees are not covered by the NHS scheme and therefore employees will need to request a copy of their employer's own maternity leave policy.

    If a doctor does not have enough service to qualify for the medical school or university scheme they will still be entitled to the statutory provisions which apply to any employee.

    Those medical school or university employees with an honorary NHS contract who return to NHS employment will not have that period of employment counted as a break in service. This service, however, will not count as qualifying service for maternity leave purposes.

    Employees who do not have an honorary contract will have their service with the medical school or university counted as a break in service.

    We strongly advise those members who are considering starting a family or are pregnant to contact the BMA for individual advice. Call us on 0300 123 1233.