This page lists the benefits you're entitled to when you're pregnant, and has information on maternity, paternity and shared parental 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
If you are employed and pregnant, you are entitled to 52 weeks (1 year) of maternity leave, no matter how long you've worked for your 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.
Your employment terms (for example, your pension contributions) are protected while you're on Statutory Maternity Leave.
If you're 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're 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 before your baby is born. It's also a good opportunity to make some new friends.
You may make new pregnant friends 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.
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 make childcare arrangements, and it may take you some time.
You may have a relative who's 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.
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 your carer is experienced and trained to care for babies.
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're denied your rights.
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.
If you're a father-to-be or the partner of someone who is pregnant – 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.
Shared Parental Leave
You may be eligible to share parental leave and pay with your partner.
Shared Parental Leave is designed to give parents the flexibility to decide when to return to work and allow families to spend time together in the early stages of a child's life.
- Leave and pay can be shared following the first 2 weeks after your baby's birth. This means up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared.
- You do not have to take all of your Shared Parental Leave at the same time.
- You can take Shared Parental Leave in up to 3 blocks (each block must be a minimum of 1 week) and return to work in between.
- Shared Parental Leave can be taken by both parents at the same time so you and your partner can spend time at home together with your baby.
Benefits if you're pregnant
There are benefits and financial help if you're pregnant, whether you're employed or not.
Free prescriptions and dental care
All prescriptions and NHS dental treatment are free while you're pregnant and for 12 months after your baby's due date. Children also get free prescriptions until they're 16.
To claim free prescriptions, ask your doctor or midwife for form FW8 and send it to your health authority.
You'll be sent a maternity exemption certificate (MATEX) that lasts for 12 months after your due date. You must have a valid exemption certificate to claim free prescriptions and dental care.
You can get free milk, infant formula, vitamins, fruit and vegetables if you're receiving certain benefits or if you're under 18.
Child Tax Credit gives financial support for children, and Working Tax Credit helps people in lower-paid jobs by topping up their wages.
Statutory Maternity Pay
A weekly payment from your employer to help you take time off before and after your baby is born.
If you're pregnant or have a new baby but do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, you might be able to claim Maternity Allowance through Jobcentre Plus.
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 them.
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 on GOV.UK, 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 there are no other children under 16 in your family, you could get this one-off payment.
The main benefit for people of working age who are out of work.
If you cannot be available for full-time work and have not got enough money to live on, you might qualify for Income Support, depending on your circumstances.
Find out more about Income Support on GOV.UK, including how and where to claim.
Employment and Support Allowance
This has replaced Income Support for people who cannot work because of illness or disability.
You might be eligible for help with all or part of your rent if you're on a low income.
Support for Mortgage Interest
Help with mortgage interest repayments if you receive certain benefits.
Council Tax Reduction
You might be eligible for help with paying your council tax if your income is low.
Help with transport costs to hospital
You might be able to get help from the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme, depending on your circumstances.
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.
There are lots of voluntary organisations that are happy to help. Ask them for advice or get an opinion.
- 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 your rights at work, call ACAS on 0300 123 1100.
- If you're 19 or under, you can get advice on work from the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900.