Over the last 12 months, 598,000 women took maternity leave. However, statutory pay after the first six weeks is low.

Therefore, if you take time off work with your child, you may wonder whether you can get a new job on maternity leave.

Fortunately, this post offers some much-needed answers. We explore your rights, whether you can work for a new employer and if you can start a new job on maternity leave in the UK.

Can I Work While On Statutory Maternity Pay?

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is a weekly payment that you can get from your employer for up to 39 weeks if you meet eligibility criteria. The first six weeks pay 90 per cent of your regular gross pay, while the remaining weeks pay a much smaller sum – currently £172.48 per week.

You can work up to 10 days during your maternity pay period without losing your SMP. These are called ‘keeping in touch’ (KIT) days and can be used for training, meetings or other work-related activities. However, you should not exceed this amount. Always agree with your employer when you will take these days in advance to avoid losing your statutory benefits.

If you already have two jobs, you can start and finish your maternity leave at different times. The earliest you can begin maternity leave is 11 weeks before your child’s due date.

Can I Work For a New Employer If I Am Receiving Statutory Maternity Pay From My Old Employer?

You can start working for a new employer while receiving SMP from your old one, provided you don’t exceed your KIT allowance (10 days) with your former employer. However, your new employer won’t have to pay your SMP unless you’ve worked for them for 26 weeks, 15 weeks before your baby is due.

If you decide to work for a new employer and the timing doesn’t work out, you may need to get a Maternity Allowance instead. This funding is available from the government directly. It pays £172.48 per week (or 90% of your average pay if that is lower) for 39 weeks.

Can I Get A New Job Whilst On Maternity Leave?

You still have the right to look for and accept new jobs while on maternity leave, but the work must not start before the end of your leave. You don’t need to tell your employer you are moving on or looking for a new job. However, you should abide by the terms of your employment contract, including those relating to giving notice or working for competitors or working for another employer during your employment. How much warning you should provide usually depends on how long you’ve worked for them. Longer tenures generally require lengthier notice periods.

When looking for a new job, check the terms and conditions of your existing job’s pay and benefits carefully. Ending your old contract early could disqualify you from certain benefits, and you may need to make repayments to your employer.

Some employers also offer enhanced maternity leave payments to reduce staff turnover. You should check these before getting a new job to better weigh up your options.

What Happens If I Get a New Job On Maternity Leave?

If you get a new job on maternity leave and start working immediately, you will lose any SMP or Maternity Allowance you’re entitled to. However, you’ll still get various maternity rights from the new employer, such as protection from discrimination and the right to request flexible working if you are looking after children.

Can I Be Fired For Getting a Second Job On Maternity Leave?

Provided it doesn’t breach your employment contract, your employer would not be able to dismiss you for taking another job during your maternity leave.  For instance, if your employer states that you cannot work for a competitor, but that’s what you do, they can legally dismiss you.   During maternity leave, you are still employed and therefore still bound by your contract of employment.  It is important to check your contract carefully as your employer may require you to seek written permission before taking on another job during your employment.

Furthermore, you do not have to tell your employer or colleagues about your pregnancy for some time.  You don’t have to tell your employer until 15 weeks before your due date.  You are also not obligated to let a future employer know you are pregnant.

Unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination is common, meaning you may want to keep it to yourself longer than you otherwise might. Employers may initiate dismissals based on other reasons, and it can be hard to prove the real reason if your pregnancy has been disclosed.

Want to know your rights? Get in touch with our expert team and we’ll be happy to help.