Under the Employment Act 2002, the period of ordinary maternity leave was extended from 18 weeks to 26 weeks. The period of additional maternity leave was extended to 26 weeks from the date when ordinary maternity leave ended. The total statutory maternity leave is now 52 weeks, but new mothers do not have to take the full 52 weeks’ leave. However, new mothers must take two weeks’ leave after their baby is born and before they return to work. The Equality Act 2010 has also intoduced further statutory rights for new mothers if they can satisfy certain qualifying conditions, including:
• A total of 26 weeks’ ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks’ additional maternity leave
• Maternity pay
• Offer of alternative work before being suspended on maternity grounds
• Paid time off to receive antenatal care
• Protection from dismissal by reason of pregnancy, childbirth or maternity
• Remuneration on suspension on maternity grounds
• Return to work after ordinary maternity leave or additional maternity leave.