Pregnancy and baby

Maternity and paternity benefits and leave

This page lists the benefits you're entitled to when you're pregnant, and has information on maternity and paternity leave. It also lists other benefits you might be able to receive, depending on your circumstances. 

Leave and time off

When you're pregnant, you're entitled to up to a year of maternity leave.

Statutory Maternity Leave

All employed pregnant women are entitled to 52 weeks (one year) of maternity leave, no matter how long they've worked for their employer. This is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave. You have a range of rights during this period and can also request that your employer provides flexible working arrangements if you decide to return to work at the end of your leave. Find out more about statutory maternity leave.

The GOV.UK website has an online tool that can give you personalised guidance on maternity rights.

Your employment terms, for example your pension contributions, are protected while you are on Statutory Maternity Leave. If you are made redundant while on Statutory Maternity Leave, you also have extra rights.

Working when pregnant

If you're pregnant, your employer must protect your health and safety, and you may have the right to paid time off for antenatal care. You are also protected against unfair treatment.  

If you enjoy your work and like the people you work with, you may have mixed feelings when you go on maternity leave. Try to make the most of these few weeks to enjoy doing the things you want to do at your own pace. It's also a good opportunity to make some new friends. You may meet other pregnant women you want to keep in touch with at antenatal classes, or you may get to know more people living close by. Find out about your employee rights when you're on maternity, adoption or parental leave.

Planning childcare

You may have decided that you're going to spend some time at home with your baby, or you may be planning to return to work, either full time or part time, fairly soon after the birth. If you plan to go back to work, start thinking in advance about who will look after your baby. It's not always easy to find satisfactory childcare arrangements, and it may take you some time.

You may have a relative who is willing to look after your child. If not, contact the Family Information Service at your local authority for a list of registered childminders and nurseries in your area. GOV.UK has more information about childcare. You may also want to think about organising care in your own home, either on your own or sharing with other parents.

Care in your own home does not need to be registered, but make sure that your carer is experienced and trained to care for babies. The Gov.uk website has more information on:

Returning to work after Statutory Maternity Leave

You have employment rights and responsibilities when you go back to work. Make sure you know what these are and what to do if you have any problems or you are denied your rights. Find out more about your right to return to work after Statutory Maternity Leave.

Requesting flexible working

Parents of children aged 16 and under, or of disabled children aged 18 and under, are entitled to request a flexible working pattern. You need to follow a specific procedure when making your request. Find out more about asking for flexible working.

Paternity leave

If you are a father-to-be or a pregnant woman's partner – including same-sex partner – you could have the right to paternity leave. You may have the right to up to 26 weeks' Additional Paternity Leave. Find out more about paternity leave. GOV.UK has an online tool that can give you personalised guidance on paternity rights at work

Benefits 

There are benefits and financial help for pregnant women, whether they are employed or not.  

Dental care

Prescriptions and NHS dental treatment are free while you are pregnant and for 12 months after you have given birth. Children also get free prescriptions until they are 16. To claim free prescriptions, ask your doctor or midwife for form FW8 and send it to your health authority. You will be sent an Exemption Certificate that lasts for a year after your due date.

To claim after your baby is born (if you didn’t claim while you were pregnant) fill in form A in leaflet P11 NHS Prescriptions, which you can get from your doctor or Jobcentre Plus. To claim for dental treatment, tick a box on a form provided by the dentist or show your Exemption Certificate.

Most of the links in this list take you to the GOV.UK website, where you'll find the most up-to-date information about rights and benefits, including those for pregnant women and parents.

Healthy Start

Free milk, infant formula, vitamins, fruit and vegetables for pregnant women receiving certain benefits, and for all pregnant women under 18. Find out more on the Healthy Start website.

Tax credits 

Child Tax Credit gives financial support for children, and Working Tax Credit helps people in lower-paid jobs by topping up their wages. Find out more about tax credits.

Statutory Maternity Pay

A weekly payment from your employer to help you take time off before and after your baby is born. Find out more about Statutory Maternity Pay, including when you need to tell your employer that you're pregnant.

Maternity Allowance

If you're pregnant or have a new baby but don't qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, you might be able to claim Maternity Allowance through Jobcentre Plus. Find out more about Maternity Allowance, including how to apply.

Statutory Paternity Pay

If your wife, partner (including same-sex partner) or civil partner gives birth or adopts a child, you may be able to claim Statutory Paternity Pay to help you take time off work to support her. Find out more about Statutory Paternity Pay, including when you need to let your employer know that you're expecting.

Statutory Adoption Pay

A weekly payment from your employer to help you take time off if you adopt a child. Find out more about Statutory Adoption Pay, including how and when to let your employer know.

Other financial help

Sure Start Maternity Grant

If you're on a low income and get certain benefits or tax credits, and if there are no other children under 16 in your family, you could get this one-off payment. Find out more about the Sure Start Maternity Grant.

Jobseeker's Allowance

The main benefit for people of working age who are out of work. Find out more about Jobseeker's Allowance.

Income Support

If you can't be available for full-time work and haven't got enough money to live on, you might qualify for Income Support, depending on your circumstances. Find out more about Income Support, including how and where to claim.

Employment and Support Allowance

This has replaced Income Support for people who can't work because of illness or disability. Find out more about Employment and Support Allowance.

Housing Benefit

You might be eligible for help with all or part of your rent if you're on a low income. Find out more about Housing Benefit.

Support for Mortgage Interest

Help with mortgage interest repayments if you receive certain benefits. Find out more about Support for Mortgage Interest.

Council Tax Benefit

You might be eligible for help with paying your council tax if your income is low. Find out more about Council Tax Benefit.

Community Care Grants

Financial help to live independently in the community or to ease exceptional pressure on you and your family if you receive certain benefits. Find out more about Community Care Grants.

Help with transport costs to hospital

You might be able to get help from the Hospital Travel Costs Scheme, depending on your circumstances. Find out more about help with transport costs to hospital.

Where to get help and support

You should get advice on benefits as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Benefits have to be claimed on different forms, from different offices, depending on what you're claiming. Maternity rights are complex and sometimes change, so get further advice if you're not sure. There are many voluntary organisations that are happy to help, so don’t hesitate to ask for advice or get an opinion. You can contact any of the following organisations:

  • your local Jobcentre Plus
  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • library or other advice centre

To find local advice agencies, look in your Yellow Pages under Counselling and advice:

  • Some local authorities have welfare rights officers – phone your social services department and ask.
  • Some voluntary organisations give information and advice on benefits and rights at work – try Gingerbread and Working Families.
  • For advice on rights at work, call ACAS on 08457 474747.
  • If you’re 19 or under, you can get advice on work from the Careers Helpline for Young People on 0800 100 900.

Page last reviewed: 07/05/2013

Next review due: 07/05/2015

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The 3 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Ash212 said on 03 November 2014

Hi. My partner is 7 weeks pregnant with our first and I'm looking for some information on groups and classes in our area. We are yet to see midwife. We are living In Cardiff. Any help would be appreciated.

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Kathryn at NHS Choices said on 01 July 2013

Dear tat31,

The UK has a residency based healthcare system, so entitlement to free NHS hospital treatment in England is based on whether you are ordinarily resident in the UK, not on British nationality or the past or present payment of National Insurance contributions or UK taxes. ‘Ordinary residence’ means, broadly, living in the UK on a lawful and properly settled basis for the time being.

There are, however, a number of categories of exemption from charge that may apply. You may want to check these here: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/uk-visitors/Pages/accessing-nhs-services.aspx

Unless an overseas visitor qualifies under one of these categories then they would be chargeable.

However, the responsibility of deciding who is entitled to free NHS hospital treatment lies with the hospital providing treatment (usually an overseas visitors manager) and they can ask patients to provide documentary evidence to support their claim to free treatment.

GPs have discretion to register any patient for free primary care, so you do not need to be ordinarily resident to be registered. However, being registered with a GP does not in itself mean you are entitled to free NHS hospital treatment.

Hope that helps,
Kathryn Bingham, editor at NHS Choices

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tat31 said on 04 April 2013

Can anyone help? Me and my partner are trying for a baby, but we live abroad. Would I still be entitled to benefits/sure start maternity grant or would I have to come home to have the baby? I am planning on having the baby at home I think... Helpful advice would be very much appreciated :)

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