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Working during maternity and family leave

Last updated: 1 Apr 2021

One of the most common questions we receive on our helpline is whether you can work during maternity or statutory family leave (Adoption or Shared Parental Leave) without ending your leave or pay early. This article sets out the rules for working while on statutory family leave, and answers frequently asked questions.

The general rule is that working during maternity leave or other statutory family leave will end your leave and stop your statutory pay. For instance, working during maternity leave for your employer will end your leave and stop you Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA) payments. However, there are some important exceptions, which are detailed below.

Self-employed work

If you are on maternity or family leave and getting SMP, Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP), or Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) then you can work on a self-employed basis without it affecting your SMP/SAP/ShPP.

It would be very risky to work for your usual employer on a self-employed basis as it would probably not look like genuine self-employment. This is particularly so if the work you would be doing is just the same as the work you did as an employee.

Remember that you are still bound by your employment contract while on maternity or statutory family leave, so you need to check if your contract allows you to do self-employed work. Not all contracts allow employees to work elsewhere.

If your contract normally lets you work elsewhere, your employer cannot have a special clause preventing you from doing so during maternity leave. To do so would be maternity discrimination.

Can I do self-employed work while on Maternity Allowance?

Ordinarily, you can work on a self-employed basis without it affecting your SMP/SAP/ShPP. However, this doesn’t apply to those on MA.

If you are on MA, you can only work up to 10 days (Keeping in Touch (KIT) days) without it affecting your pay. Any work you do above 10 days, whether employed or self-employed, will lead to you being disqualified from claiming MA for at least the number of days you worked in excess of those 10 days.

If you are on MA and you want to know whether your MA will be affected by self-employment work, you should speak to Jobcentre Plus or seek advice.

Working for a second employer

If you worked for an employer in the 15th week before the week your baby was due (your ‘qualifying week’, or in the case of adoption, the 15th week before the week you were notified of being matched with your child) then it will not affect your SMP/SAP/ShPP if you work for this employer while on leave with another employer. If you work for a second employer while you are on maternity leave, but before the birth of your baby, your SMP will also not be stopped.

See our article on maternity rights if you have more than one job.

If you want to work for another employer, but you did not work with this employer in the 15th week before the week the baby was due (or in the case of adoption, the 15th week before the week you were notified of being matched with your child), then it will stop SMP/SAP/ShPP from any employer who is paying it.

You should tell the employer paying you SMP/SAP/ShPP of any work you do for another employer.

I have two employers and both pay me SMP, can I return to work at different times for different employers?

Yes – if you qualify for SMP for both jobs, you can start and finish your maternity leave and SMP in both jobs at different times without it affecting your leave or pay from either employer.

Keeping in Touch (KIT) days

Employees on maternity or adoption leave may work up to 10 KIT days without their leave or pay stopping.

Employees on Shared Parental Leave (SPL) are allowed to work up to 20 Shared Parental Leave in Touch (SPLIT) days without their leave or pay stopping.

A KIT or a SPLIT day is a normal calendar day, whether you work a full day or just an hour you will have used a KIT/SPLIT day.

Where you can work on a KIT or SPLIT day depends on the kind of maternity pay you are getting. If you are getting SMP, SAP or ShPP, you can only work a KIT or SPLIT for the employer who is paying you SMP, SAP or ShPP. If you are getting MA, any work, whether self employed or for any employer, counts as a KIT day.

What happens if I do more than 10 KIT or 20 SPLIT days?

If you are on SMP, SAP or ShPP, you will lose a week of pay for each week that you do any work for your employer above your 10 KIT or 20 SPLIT days. It may also affect your entitlement to remain on maternity leave. You should seek advice if you want to do this.

If you are on MA, your MA will stop being paid if you work more than 10 days (whether for an employer or as self-employed). However, your MA period continues to run. If you are an employee, it may also affect your right to continue on maternity leave. If you are not an employee, you may be able to restart your MA claim, depending on how long you have been disqualified for. You will be disqualified from receiving MA for at least the number of days that you worked in excess of 10 days.

This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

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The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.