From April 2007 all employed mothers are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave, of which 39 may be paid. Employers are not required to record or report the uptake of maternity leave to the Government.
The most recent estimates of take-up of maternity leave are based on the DWP “Maternity Rights and Mothers’ employment decisions in Britain: Survey of Mothers” (2007). In 2006, when the mothers included in the study went on maternity leave, the statutory entitlement to Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) was 26 weeks, while mothers who had worked for their employer for a qualifying period of 26 weeks were also entitled to Additional Maternity Leave (AML) of 26 weeks. The Office for National Statistics estimate there were 15,370 live births in Essex in 2006.
For mothers taking maternity leave in 2006:
84 per cent. took 26 weeks or more maternity leave;
35 per cent. took exactly 26 weeks maternity leave;
46 per cent. of mothers took between 27 and 52 weeks and 3 per cent. were off for more than 52 weeks;
16 per cent. of mothers took less than the statutory minimum entitlement (i.e. 26 weeks in 2006).
The next “Maternity Rights” survey will be based on mothers who took maternity leave starting in summer 2008. It is due to report later in 2010. The “Maternity Rights” survey sample is not large enough to produce robust estimates at constituency or county levels.