Continuous service and maternity leave under the NHS scheme

This page explains the continuous service requirements for maternity leave eligibility that apply under the NHS Scheme.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Friday 4 February 2022
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To be eligible for maternity leave under the NHS scheme you must have 12 months continuous service with one or more NHS employers at the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth.


Calculating the 12-month continuous service requirement

The following apply when considering whether an employee meets the requirement:

  • NHS employers include: health authorities, NHS boards, NHS trusts, and the Northern Ireland Health Service.
  • *A break in service of three months or less will be disregarded (though not count as service).

*The following breaks in service will also be disregarded (though not count as service):

  • employment under the terms of an honorary contract
  • employment as a locum in a GP setting for a period not exceeding 12 months
  • a period of up to 12 months spent abroad as part of a definite programme of postgraduate training on the advice of the postgraduate dean or college or faculty adviser in the specialty concerned
  • a period of voluntary service overseas with a recognised international relief organisation for a period of 12 months which may be exceptionally extended for 12 months at the discretion of the employer which recruits the employee on her return
  • absence on an employment break scheme in accordance with the provisions of temporary appendix V(ii) of the Terms and Conditions of NHS Medical and Dental Staff (England) 2002 - section 34 of the NHS Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook for those doctors on the 2016 contract and temporary schedule 25 of the Terms and Conditions of Service for those employed under the new consultant contract.

    Temporary Schedule 22 of the Terms and Conditions of Service- Specialty Doctor (England) April 2008 and temporary Schedule 23 of the Terms and Conditions - Associate Specialist (England) April 2008
  • absence on maternity leave (paid or unpaid) as provided for under this agreement
  • employment as a trainee with a general medical practitioner in accordance with the provisions of the trainee practitioner scheme shall similarly be disregarded and count as service
  • employers have the discretion to count other previous NHS service or service with other employers.

*Employers may - at their discretion - extend the period specified


Junior doctors on the 2016 contract

In addition to the above, for junior doctors on the 2016 TCS, the following will be disregarded when assessing the 12-month continuous service requirement:

  • time spent outside of NHS employment (employers not listed at Annex 1) in an out of programme (OOP) placement approved by the postgraduate dean
  • time spent employed in the health service of a UK crown dependency as part of an approved training programme.
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