Returning to school after maternity leave


You might be apprehensive about returning to school after a period of maternity leave. You could be unsure about whether your teaching responsibilities will have changed, the hours you will work and your health and safety.

You will want to check your school’s maternity leave policy on information regarding your own setting.

We have also published other articles looking at your rights to maternity leave as a teacher and what the maternity allowance is.

The right to return to school after maternity leave

ACAS explains your employment rights when returning to work after having a baby.

It explains the first 26 weeks of maternity leave are called ‘ordinary maternity leave’ under the law

You have the right to return to the same job after ordinary maternity leave.

More than 26 weeks’ is called ‘additional maternity leave.’

If you use additional maternity leave, you still have the right to return to your job on the same terms as before you left. However, if it’s not possible because there have been significant changes to the organisation, you could be offered a similar job.

In this case, the job cannot be on worse terms than before. For example, the following must be the same:

  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Holiday entitlement
  • Seniority
  • Where the job is

What should I do if I want to change the date I return to school?

ACAS explains you must tell your employer at least 8 weeks before you’re due to return to work if you want to:

  • Stay on maternity leave longer than planned
  • Return to work sooner than planned

Health and safety when you return to work

Your employer has to have a workplace health and safety assessment for employees of child-bearing age, including new mothers.

If you want to change your hours after maternity leave

If you want to change your hours or duties when you return, you might be able to make a flexible working request. We have published another article which outlines how you can make a request for flexible working.

Could I be made redundant for taking maternity leave?

It’s against the law for your employer to make you redundant just because you’ve been on maternity leave or have requested flexible working to care for your child.

We have published another article which outlines your employment rights when faced with redundancy at school.

If you decide to leave your job

The Citizens Advice website explains if you decide not to go back to your job, your contract will tell you how much notice you need to give your employer. If there’s nothing in your contract, you need to give at least a week’s notice.

If you get contractual maternity pay you might only keep your full amount if you return to work.

You won’t need to pay back statutory maternity pay or Maternity Allowance, even if you don’t return to work.

Your contract or employee handbook will tell you how long you need to spend back at work to keep your full contractual maternity pay. 

If you do need to pay back contractual maternity pay, you won’t lose all of it. You’ll keep what you could have got if you’d been paid statutory maternity pay instead of contractual.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
While Edapt has sought to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date, it is not responsible and will not be held liable for any inaccuracies and their consequences, including any loss arising from relying on this information. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence. If you are an Edapt subscriber with an employment-related issue, please contact us and we will be able to refer you to one of our caseworkers.