Your contract during maternity leave

Read about your contractual rights during paid and unpaid maternity leave and on university or NHS contracts. Find out how maternity leave affects your training if you have a fixed, training, or rotational training contract.

Location: England
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Wednesday 1 May 2024
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Paid and unpaid maternity leave

During a period of paid and unpaid maternity leave, you retain all your contractual rights except remuneration.

This also counts as service for annual increments, and for the purposes of any service qualification period for additional annual leave.

Annual leave

This will continue to accrue during maternity leave.

Under the NHS scheme, if the amount of accrued annual leave exceeds normal carry over provisions*, you can agree to take annual leave before or after the formal maternity leave period.

Alternatively, it could be carried over, but this is a matter for you and your employer to agree, preferably in writing.

Payment in lieu may be considered where accrual of annual leave exceeds normal carry over provisions.

*normally 5 days

View the NHS employers factsheet.

Maternity leave and training contracts

Fixed term or training contracts

If you have a fixed term or training contract which

  1. expires after the eleventh week before the Expected Week of Confinement (EWC), and
  2. you satisfy the conditions of the NHS Scheme,

your contract will be extended to allow you to receive the 52 weeks. This includes paid contractual and statutory maternity pay and the remaining 13 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.

Absence on maternity leave (paid and unpaid) up to 52 weeks before a further NHS appointment does not constitute a break in service. However, it would not count as service towards a further period of maternity leave.

If there is no right to return to be exercised because the contract would have ended if pregnancy and childbirth had not occurred, the repayment provisions will not apply.

Employees on fixed term contracts who do not have 12 months’ continuous service within the NHS may still be entitled to the statutory provisions.

Rotational training contracts

If you are on a planned rotation of appointments with one or more NHS employers as part of an agreed programme of training, you have the right to return to work

  • in the same post or
  • in the next planned post

irrespective of whether the contract would otherwise have ended, if pregnancy and childbirth had not occurred. Your contract will be extended to enable you to complete the agreed programme of training.

Check with your Royal College whether your maternity leave absence will have any effect on the duration of your training.

  • Statutory continuous service during a rotational training contract for statutory payments

Where an employee changes their employer because

  • their training programme requires them to do so and
  • that means they have insufficient statutory continuous service with their current employer in order to qualify for statutory maternity pay, statutory adoption pay or statutory shared parental pay,
  • which would not be the case if they had not been required to change employer because of the training programme,

the employee will be paid the statutory pay they would have been entitled to had their statutory continuous service not been broken by their change of employer.

The same provision will apply to those employees who

  • are required as part of their training programme to work in a Crown Dependency and
  • would have had sufficient statutory continuous service had they not been required to do so.
  • Junior doctors on the 2016 contract who are subject to the transitional pay protection arrangements under Schedule 14

Those junior doctors who

  • are employed on the 2016 Junior Doctors Contract and
  • are subject to section one or section two transitional pay protection arrangements under Section 14 of their Terms and Conditions of Service and
  • absent from work on maternity leave, adoption leave, shared parental leave or long-term (more than three consecutive months) sick leave,

shall have the period of time during which they are absent from work, up to a maximum of 2 years, discounted for the purposes of calculating the 4 years period for the duration of pay protection as described in the Schedule.

The period may therefore be extended by a maximum of 2 years, in direct proportion to the amount of time in which the doctor was absent from work.

Expiration of contract and movement between posts

View page 10 of the NHS employers factsheet.

University or NHS honorary contracts

Doctors employed by a university will be subject to the maternity leave and shared parental leave scheme that is operated by their university. If there is no occupational scheme in place they would be entitled to the statutory provisions. Such doctors will not be covered by the NHS scheme even if they have an honorary NHS contract. There is usually a requirement to be employed for a minimum period of time before an employee is eligible for such employment-related benefits.

Members are advised to check this in advance of taking employment with a university, though NIHR’s Principles and Obligations document does indicate states that academic trainees should have automatic access to such benefits.

A university contract, with or without an NHS honorary contract, does not count as continuous NHS service. However, where an employee has a university contract with an NHS honorary contract this period of employment will not constitute a break in service, (AL (GC) 6/83 maternity leave; honorary service). This means that on return to the NHS you would have the entitlements that you had when you left. However, it cannot be counted towards service for the purposes of further maternity or shared parental leave.

On return to the NHS after holding a university post without an honorary contract, doctors may find that because of an inadequate period of service they are not entitled either to the statutory benefits or those under the NHS scheme, their university post having broken their NHS service. If you should have had an honorary contract but never received it then you may be able to argue that you should be treated as if you had.

For doctors in training, any time spent outside of NHS employment in an Out of Programme (OOP) placement, approved by the Postgraduate Dean will not be regarded as a break in service, but will also not be counted as continuous service.

Members considering employment with the university can seek further advice from the BMA and have the contracts that they are offered checked by our contract checking service. University authorities should be able to provide copies of their maternity benefit schemes.


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