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What Is Statutory Maternity Leave?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 April 2014
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Statutory maternity leave is maternity leave which an employer is mandated to provide by law. People may also refer to it as basic or minimum maternity leave, referencing the fact that it is the absolute minimum required by statute. Expecting mothers who are in the workplace should familiarize themselves with the law in regards to maternity leave, and they may also want to ask their employers about any additional maternity benefits they offer. Planning ahead of time can make it easier to organize maternity leave when the time comes.

Governments which have passed laws governing maternity leave and other issues surrounding new parenting have varying laws covering the matter. For example, some governments require that employers offer a set minimum of maternity leave with no reference to compensation, while others require that paid maternity leave be offered. Statutory maternity leave can include a mix of full time, part time, and unpaid leave; for example, some nations mandate a set period of time at full pay, and the option to take additional time off with no pay without penalty.

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The purpose of statutory maternity leave is to protect the rights of employed mothers. Employment discrimination against pregnant women is outlawed in many areas, and this includes firing women who take leave to have their babies and take care of them in the first few weeks of life. Statutory maternity leave laws usually assume that women would like some time at home with new babies or newly adopted children, and provide mechanisms for mothers to take leave without fear of reprisals. In addition, many nations offer statutory paternity leave which can be taken by new fathers.

When a woman takes statutory maternity leave, she is required to notify her employer in a timely fashion so that the employer has an opportunity to make arrangements to cover her while she is on leave. Since babies do not necessarily arrive when predicted, most workplaces are flexible about start dates.

In addition to providing leave, employers are also usually required to provide employees with information about their rights under the law, including minimum wage laws, laws which limit working hours, and so forth. This information must be provided in an accessible format and many employers have their employees sign forms indicating that they have read and understood the information so that if there is a dispute later, the employer has a record of the fact that the employee was made aware of his or her rights under the law. If an employer violates the law by not providing enough leave or not paying benefits required by law, an employee can have grounds for a suit to compel the lawyer to obey the law.

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