Maternity leave and furlough: Can I be furloughed while on maternity leave?

Last month Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a number of measures to protect workers and businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. One of these initiatives is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which enables employees to receive 80 percent of their salary from the Government if their employer is impacted by the current outbreak.

What are you eligible for on maternity leave?

In ordinary circumstances, maternity leave entitles an employee to 52 weeks of leave.

The first 26 weeks of this period are known as Ordinary Maternity Leave, while the remaining 26 weeks is known as Additional Maternity Leave.

However you are only entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for a period of 39 weeks.

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For the first six weeks, an employee will receive 90 percent of their average weekly earnings before tax.

For the remaining 33 weeks, an employee is eligible to receive £151.20 per week or 90 percent of their average weekly earnings, depending on which is lower.

Your employer may offer other benefits or pay during this time, but you will need to check this with them directly.

Tax and National Insurance will also be deducted from these SMP payments.

Can I be furloughed while on maternity leave?

During the coronavirus pandemic, the normal rules regarding maternity leave apply.

However, your employer is entitled to claim support from the Government to pay your maternity pay during this time.

An employer can claim through the scheme for enhanced (earnings related) contractual pay for employees who qualify for either:

  • maternity pay
  • adoption pay
  • paternity pay
  • shared parental pay

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Maternity Action outline on its website there is “no entitlement” to your full, usual salary while on maternity leave.

It states: “Government guidance says that women can be on furlough AND maternity leave in order for employers to recoup the costs of occupational maternity pay.

“However, you are only entitled to your statutory or occupational maternity pay during your maternity leave as there is no entitlement to normal remuneration (salary) during maternity leave.

“If you want to receive 80 percent of pay on furlough you will need to give notice to end your maternity leave.

“You must take a minimum of 2 weeks’ compulsory maternity leave.

“You should bear in mind that the furlough scheme could end at any time and if you have given notice to end your maternity leave you cannot go back onto maternity leave.”

If you are due to begin your maternity leave soon, you should start your maternity leave as usual.

But if you have been placed on furlough and your earnings have reduced as a result, this may impact how much you receive in Statutory Maternity Pay.

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