We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Human Resources & Organisational Development

Maternity Leave & Pay - Guidelines for Employees

Whom do I need to inform about my pregnancy?

It is advisable that you contact your HR representative at an early stage to ensure that you are clear about your entitlements, dates for notification, etc.

In order to minimise the risk to yourself and your unborn child you must inform your Line Manager and arrange to complete a workplace risk assessment as soon as possible if this has not already been completed. If adjustments need to be made then you or your Line Manager can contact the relevant department. If you have concerns about the adjustments that need to be made, or if you have been advised that your pregnancy is high risk or you have any other medical concerns then your manager should make a referral as soon as possible to the Occupational Health Adviser to seek advice regarding your situation. In these circumstances it is likely that the Occupational Health advisers will contact you or arrange an appointment to see you.

If you are considering becoming pregnant and you have any concerns regarding your working environment, please contact the Occupational Health Adviser.

Contact with the Human Resources Department and Occupational Health Adviser is always treated confidentially.

In addition, it is advisable that you notify your Head of Department or Section so that early consideration can be given to covering your post during your absence.

Formal notification

You should provide formal notification of pregnancy preferably at the earliest opportunity but no later than the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth, known as ‘The Qualifying Week', which is when you will be around 25 weeks pregnant. This notification should comprise of a written statement of when you intend to start your maternity leave and, where applicable, whether or not you wish to return to work within the University, providing an indication of return date where possible. This date can be altered at a later date if your plans change, however you are required to provide the University with 8 weeks notice of this change. The option you have chosen for payment of your maternity pay is also required at this time.

You are also required to provide a Medical Certificate from a registered medical practitioner or midwife stating the expected week of childbirth (you can use the MAT B1 form from your doctor or midwife) as soon as is reasonably practical. Your Midwife or Doctor will issue this form between the 20 and 26 week stage of your pregnancy.

What am I entitled to under the University Maternity Leave Agreement?

  • All pregnant employees are entitled to up to 52 weeks maternity leave including ordinary and additional leave;
  • Statutory maternity pay will be paid for 39 weeks (roughly nine months);
  • 13 weeks unpaid leave comprises the remainder of the 52 week entitlement.

The University provides an occupational maternity scheme which differs from Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and Leave, providing enhanced benefits, subject to compliance with notification requirements.

If you have been continuously employed by the University for a minimum of 12 months before the expected week of childbirth you can choose :

Option 1

  • 8 weeks leave on full pay (inclusive of SMP);
  • followed by 16 weeks leave on half pay (plus, in addition to this, the lower rate of SMP);
  • followed by 15 weeks leave at the lower rate of SMP;
  • Plus up to 13 further weeks of unpaid leave.


Option 2

  • 16 weeks on full pay (inclusive of SMP);
  • followed by the lower rate of SMP for 23 weeks;
  • Plus up to 13 weeks unpaid leave.

It is your choice whether you choose the first or second options in regard to occupational maternity pay (OMP). You may find it useful to access the Maternity Pay Calculator to give you an estimate of the pay you may receive following each option. Please note, this is an estimate only and does not take into account, tax and pension implications.

Your SMP commences on day 1 of your maternity leave regardless of which option you choose and runs concurrently with OMP. You are eligible for up to 52 weeks maternity leave in total regardless of the option chosen. It is your choice to decide when it is suitable for you to return to work however an indication of this date is required in the letter you send to the University in your formal notification.

SMP is paid for 39 weeks. Whilst you are receiving full OMP, then SMP will be included with this value. If you move onto half pay, SMP will be paid in addition to this value. Any remaining SMP will continue to be paid after your full or half pay has ceased.

If you receive half pay and SMP that, when combined, exceeds your gross contractual pay, we would restrict your payment to the level of your gross contractual pay.

The rate of SMP, if you are earning more than the lower earnings limit, is 90% of average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks and the lower of the statutory maternity rate per week or 90% of average weekly earnings for 33 weeks. The current rate of SMP can be found at the government website