Managing an employee who becomes pregnant again while on maternity leave

Find out how to handle a situation where an employee becomes pregnant while on maternity leave.


A pregnancy announcement can bring up a range of emotions. Many people are excited about the news, but also have mixed feelings about how they’re going to juggle a newborn and a toddler alongside their job. Feelings of uncertainty may also arise,  as your employee may wonder if they're still entitled to maternity pay or if their role will still be available to them after potentially being away for two years. We’ve outlined all the key information you need to know about what happens if your employee gets pregnant again while away on maternity leave. 

Knowing the legal requirements

If your employee falls pregnant again while on leave, they are entitled to another 52 weeks of maternity leave. Although your employee will have to check whether they’re eligible for maternity pay for a second time. 

They still have the same rights as they did during their first pregnancy. The rules apply for your employee giving their notice and starting their leave remains the same:

  • They will have to give you notice 15 weeks before their due date 
  • They can start their maternity leave from 11 weeks before their due date
  • They must give at least eight weeks notice if they want to return to work early

If an employee is late in telling you about their pregnancy, you can delay the start date of their maternity leave or maternity pay. But you can’t refuse maternity leave, or change the amount of leave the employee wants to take. If they can’t take holiday due to being on leave, you should allow them to carry over holiday days they’ve accrued. 

Taking leave and getting paid

Your employee is still employed while on maternity leave, this means they are entitled to and qualify for statutory maternity pay again if they meet the normal conditions, which include: 

  • They have worked for the company for 26 weeks up to the 15th week before their baby is due
  • They earn at least £120 a week (on average, before tax) 

If they choose to return for the minimum eight week qualifying period for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), they may be able to boost the pay they receive for their second maternity leave. If they’re already on maternity leave, it’s likely that their average wage will be based on their maternity pay rather than their full pay. 

As long as they provide 21 days notice, they can take unpaid leave and are entitled to 18 weeks of parental leave per child. If they have accumulated annual leave, they can use it to bridge the gap between the two leaves, their annual leave still accrues during Ordinary and Additional Maternity Leave. 

If they’re unwell between both periods of maternity leave, they’ll be entitled to take sick leave as normal, and should follow your company’s policy. If they receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), this could affect their maternity pay entitlement.

You have the right, as the employer, to turn down their request for annual leave, if, for example, too many employees want to take leave at the same time. You can also postpone a period of parental leave if you can reasonably show that the business would be disrupted by your employees absence. You should not, however, refuse annual leave or parental leave because of their pregnancy or maternity leave. 

Change in circumstances 

If an employee’s baby is born prematurely, maternity leave starts the day after the baby is born. In that case, your employee will need to show you proof of the baby’s birth such as a birth certificate.  If their baby passes away after birth or is stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy, they keep the same eligibility for maternity leave or pay.

Their right to return to work 

Employees on maternity leave have the right to return to their job after returning to work. If an employee’s job is no longer available when they return from maternity leave, you must offer them a suitable or similar alternative. This includes roles with the same or better pay. It’s important to manage replacements in a way that helps returning employees integrate smoothly back into their role. 

Welcoming them back 

You can arrange a maximum of 10 statutory (but optional) ‘Keep in Touch’ (KIT) days during your pregnant employee’s maternity leave, in which they can return to work. These days help staff on leave stay familiar with their job and colleagues, and ultimately help them to reintegrate. KIT days don’t affect their maternity leave or pay rights, and you may even have to pay your employee an additional amount. 

When their leave is over, a phased approach back to work is ideal. Both your company and employee have likely changed during the time passed. It’s essential to support your employee as they transition back to work. 

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