Maternity leave pay entitlements under the NHS scheme

Read our guidance on maternity leave entitlements for doctors across the UK working under the NHS scheme.

Location: UK
Audience: GPs SAS doctors Consultants Junior doctors
Updated: Thursday 7 December 2023
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NHS scheme

If you have 12 months continuous service with one or more NHS employers at the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth, and you have notified your intention to return to work with the NHS, you are entitled to:

  • 8 weeks' full pay, less any Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA)
  • 18 weeks' half pay plus any SMP or MA (providing the total does not exceed full pay)
  • 13 weeks' SMP or MA
  • 13 weeks’ unpaid leave.

It is possible to agree with your employer to have the occupational pay entitlement paid in a different way, for example, spreading it equally over the maternity leave period rather than having a period of full pay and then a period of half pay.

The NHS scheme also allows for the total 52 weeks leave to be extended by local agreement, in exceptional circumstances, such as sick pre-term babies or multiple births.

Doctors entitled to the NHS maternity scheme are:

  • junior doctors (Schedule 13 of TCS)
  • consultants (Schedule 24 of TCS)
  • specialty doctors (Schedule 21 of TCS)
  • associate specialists (Schedule 22 of TCS).

Calculation of maternity pay

Maternity pay is based on your average weekly earnings for the eight weeks prior to and including the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.

As doctors are typically paid on a monthly basis, your maternity pay will be calculated based upon your last two monthly payslips, which will then be equated to a total annual earnings, this will then be divided by 52 (number of weeks in the year) to calculate your average weekly earnings. If you are paid on a weekly basis, then your maternity pay will be based your average earnings for the last eight weeks.

Earnings that will be taken into consideration include regular contractual payments such as London weighting and banding supplements for junior hospital doctors. Members should check their own situation with their employing authorities or trusts.

Your average weekly earnings will be calculated on your gross income on which NI is payable; if you are in a salary sacrifice scheme (e.g. childcare), the calculation will be based on your pay after that is taken out, because it’s not taxed or NI-able. This means that your maternity pay may be less than you are expecting. Information on this point can be found here.

Where a pay award or annual increment is implemented before paid maternity leave begins, the pay should be calculated as though the pay award or increment had effect throughout the entire pay calculation period. If such a pay award was agreed retrospectively, the maternity pay should be re-calculated on the same basis.

Where a pay award or annual increment is implemented during paid maternity leave, the maternity pay due from the date of the pay award or annual increment should be increased accordingly. If such a pay award was agreed retrospectively, the maternity pay should be re-calculated on the same basis.

Where an employee is on unpaid sick leave or on sick leave attracting half pay during the whole or part of the period used for calculating average weekly earnings, average weekly earnings for the period of sick absence shall be calculated on the basis of notional full sick pay.

Nodal point pay progression

In instances where taking maternity leave prevents doctors from rotating into a new post which would have been paid according to a higher nodal point, this planned move to a higher nodal pay point should be reflected within their maternity leave pay if they achieved a successful ARCP outcome before or after commencing their leave.

Guidance from BMA and NHS Employers provides clarity for employers and trainee doctors regarding when a planned and anticipated move to a higher pay point under the 2016 TCS should be reflected within the doctor’s pay for section 15 leave. The principles of this guidance apply to maternity leave, adoption leave, and shared parental leave within the NHS Staff Handbook.


Junior doctors on the 2016 contract

If a junior doctor on the 2016 TCS returns from an approved period of time out programme and:

  1. The continuity of service provisions mean that the doctor is eligible for maternity leave and pay
  2. The reference period for calculating maternity pay meant that the value of the occupational maternity pay would be nil.

then the reference period is the doctor’s last period of paid employment in the previous training placement prior to commencing the time spent out of programme.

If a junior doctor on the 2016 TCS has insufficient service with their current NHS employer to qualify for statutory maternity pay, they will receive the value of statutory maternity pay from their employer during the half pay period and the 13 weeks SMP period. The same applies if the doctor was required as part of their training programme to work in a Crown Dependency and this broke their continuity of service for statutory maternity pay.

Statutory entitlements

See statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance for the current level of the entitlements.

Anyone who does not meet the qualifying conditions for the NHS Scheme may be entitled to statutory leave and pay.

All employees have a right to take 52 weeks maternity leave under the statutory scheme. To qualify for SMP you need to be an employee with 26 weeks continuous service with your employer running into the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. If you do not qualify for statutory maternity pay you may qualify for maternity allowance which can be claimed from JobcentrePlus. provides more details on eligibility for statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance, and how to claim maternity allowance.


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