Maternity entitlements on NHS and non-NHS contracts

Read our guidance about maternity entitlements for doctors on NHS contracts with national terms and conditions, and doctors outside the NHS scheme.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 1 May 2024
Teddy bear article illustration

Doctors on an NHS contract with national terms and conditions

Subject to certain conditions, NHS staff employed under contracts incorporating national Terms and Conditions of Service* and NHS agreements can be entitled to:

  • paid maternity leave
  • unpaid maternity leave
  • the right to return to work
  • time off for antenatal care
  • not be unfairly dismissed because of pregnancy or childbirth.

These entitlements are governed by the national Terms and Conditions of Service* (referred to here as the NHS Scheme).

NHS Medical and Dental Staff on standard contracts of employment incorporating the national Terms and Conditions of Service* are entitled to the NHS Scheme, as long as they meet the criteria.

Other doctors who are offered or negotiate a contract that incorporates the national Terms and Conditions of Service will also be covered. The BMA recommends this should include all salaried GPs.

Medical staff who have contracts that do not include the national Terms and Conditions of Service* provisions will either be subject to a local agreement, or to the statutory provisions that fall within the Employment Rights Act 1996 and amending legislation.

In many instances, the NHS scheme is more generous than the statutory provisions and it incorporates all the benefits of the statutory provisions.

The maternity provisions of the NHS are complex. NHS trusts can create their own maternity leave arrangements for doctors not employed under national agreements.


Doctors outside the NHS scheme

Employees who are not covered by the NHS Scheme will be covered by whatever contractual maternity leave scheme exists within their employment.

Such schemes must be no less favourable than the statutory provisions. Where there is no separate maternity leave scheme employees will be subject to statutory maternity rights which are laid down in current legislation.

All pregnant women who work under a contract of employment, regardless of hours worked or length of service, are entitled to a period of maternity leave. Where women work for more than one employer, they can exercise their maternity rights separately in relation to each.

The length of ordinary maternity leave is 26 weeks. The length of time an employee can claim a statutory maternity payment is up to 39 weeks.


join illustration
BMA: the specialty trainee’s safety net

For almost 200 years, we have been supporting doctors from tuition to physician and beyond. Learn more about being a BMA member today.

Specialty trainees - join us