Myth of the month – apprenticeships and maternity leave
I am an apprentice – am I entitled to maternity leave and to return to my apprenticeship?
An apprentice is an employee with the same employment rights as other employees when it comes to pregnancy and maternity leave. Below we set out some frequently asked questions about apprenticeships
What are my rights during pregnancy?
Just as other employees, you have a right to:
- Paid time off to attend antenatal appointments;
- A health and safety risk assessment if there is any evidence of workplace risk;
- Not to be discriminated against because you are pregnant; and
- To take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave – remember to give your employer notice in the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
We have more information here on your rights during pregnancy.
Will I be able to claim Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)?
If you meet the service and earnings conditions – yes, you can claim SMP. However your average pay during the calculation period needs to be at least the lower earnings limit. If you are under 19 years old, or in the first year of your apprenticeship, you are only entitled to receive £3.50 per hour. Once you reach 19 and have completed your first year, you will receive the National Minimum Wage rate for your age. If you can’t get SMP, you may still be able to claim Maternity Allowance.
Am I entitled to Statutory Sick Pay as an apprentice?
Yes – if you earn more than the lower earnings limit. Note that payments of SSP during the calculation period for maternity pay may affect your entitlement to SMP. Pregnancy related sickness should be recorded as such and not included in your general sickness record for disciplinary purposes or selection for redundancy.
What happens if my apprenticeship ends during my maternity leave?
Apprenticeships usually last between 12 months and 4 years. If you take a period of leave (maternity/paternity/adoption/shared parental or parental leave) you have a right to return to the job that you left, on the same terms and conditions. If your employer has a rolling apprenticeship programme, you should be able to pick up where you left off.
If you are made redundant while on maternity leave then you may be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment (if you have been with your employer for at least 2 years). However, if you think the real reason that you are not offered your apprenticeship back is because of your pregnancy or because you took maternity leave, then this is discrimination and you may be able to claim automatic unfair dismissal (regardless of your length of service) – seek advice quickly as there are strict time limits for bringing a claim at tribunal.