Although it’s fair to assume that most businesses understand the concept of maternity leave and that their employees are entitled to it, many might not have a complete grip on the specifics. However, unless they’ve had a lot of employees who’ve taken maternity leave, companies can be forgiven for not understanding its every detail. 

How long, for instance, are women entitled to maternity pay – and how much is it? Do you have to keep their job open for them? 

And, where does maternity leave end and additional maternity leave begin? Where does one end and the other begin?

This post looks into the last of those questions and delves into the subject of additional maternity leave. 

What is additional maternity leave?

Before defining additional maternity leave, let’s take a minute to define the other types of maternity leave. 

First, there’s the concept of statutory maternity leave (SML), which is 52 weeks. The first 26 weeks of SML is categorised as ordinary statutory leave (OML). Also, within ordinary statutory leave is what’s known as compulsory maternity leave (CML), which is two weeks, though for some jobs, such as factory workers, CML is four weeks. 

The second 26-week period is known as additional maternity leave (AML). However, although they sound similar, and occur one after the other, there are some important differences.

An employee’s right to retain her job

The first key difference between additional maternity leave and additional maternity leave is the employee’s right to return to her job. With ordinary maternity leave, the employee is entitled to her previous job, and to not keep it open for her is grounds for both unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination. 

If, however, an employee chooses to take additional maternity leave, she can return to her original role if it’s still practical, e.g. if it still exists. However, if a company can prove it’s impractical for the returning employee to assume the same position, you’d have to offer her a similar position, with the same salary, benefits, employment terms, responsibilities, etc. 

Notice for returning to work

If an employee is returning after additional maternity leave, they don’t have to give the company notice for their return. Instead, you’d agree upon a date for their return and expect them back on said date. However, if they wish to return earlier, at the end of ordinary maternity leave, for instance, then they have to provide you with 8 weeks’ notice. If they don’t provide this notice, you have the choice to enforce this 8 week notice period. 


Employees are entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks. This works out as being paid for the entire duration of their ordinary maternity leave, but only half (13 weeks) of their additional maternity leave. That means the remaining 13 weeks will be unpaid, unless the business has a specific arrangement with the employee (as per their contract).

Annual leave during additional maternity leave

Employees still accrue annual leave during their maternity leave – but they can’t take it during this time, i.e., they can’t receive a payment in lieu of the days taken.

However, some employees choose to use their remaining annual leave allowance at the start of their maternity leave. Alternatively, some new mothers may also opt to use their accumulated holiday days when their additional maternity leave finishes. However, the specifics of how employees are allowed to use their annual leave is at the discretion of the company – and should be laid out in both your absence policy and employment contracts.

In any case, to avoid potential disputes, especially when the employee is on maternity leave, you need to have a system for accurately for tracking annual leave – calculating how much annual leave they’ve accrued before they go on maternity leave, how much they’ve taken and, consequently, how much they have left. Similarly, you’ll have to track how many days off they continue to accrue while they’re off. 

If your company could benefit from using an absence management system that makes tracking annual leave effortless sign up for a free trial of ScheduleLeave.