Resigning while on maternity leave: guide and FAQs

Updated 25 May 2023

While on parental leave, it's possible that some circumstances may cause you to consider leaving your job. These might be personal or related to your work. If you're thinking about leaving your job while on parental leave, understanding what it might entail can help you make the right decision. In this article, we discuss the reasons for resigning while on maternity leave, describe how to handle the decision, explain how this type of leave works as of December 2022, how parental pay works, whether you're entitled to it if you resign and whether you would have to repay anything.

What are the reasons for resigning while on maternity leave?

If you're considering resigning while on maternity leave, certain factors may affect your decision. These fall broadly into two categories, namely personal and professional. Carefully considering these can help you make the right decision. Personal considerations can include whether you want a different work-life balance, such as spending more time at home with your child. Professional considerations include the implications for your career and possible alternative approaches to work. These various considerations may help you decide whether resigning is the right choice or whether there are some alternatives or compromises.

To help you assess the options, here are some pros and cons you might consider:

Pros of resigning

Here are some of the potential advantages of resigning from your job while still on parental leave:

  • You can dedicate more time to your child.

  • You have more time to prepare for the birth.

  • You may enjoy a better work-life balance.

  • You can still have some statutory maternity pay (SMP) entitlements.

  • You can still return to work when you're ready.

Cons of resigning

Below are some of the possible disadvantages of resigning from your job while still on parental leave:

  • You may not have SMP entitlements.

  • You might create an employment gap.

  • You could miss opportunities for advancement.

  • There may be alternatives to resigning that are better for your situation.

  • It might cause financial strain.

Related: Should I quit my job? (Reasons for quitting and FAQs)

How do I resign during parental leave?

If you're considering resigning from your job during parental leave, consider the steps and options below:

1. Evaluate your situation

A good first step is to carefully consider your situation to determine whether resigning is the right choice for you. Some factors to consider include whether you have a partner who can support you, how the decision may affect your future career, the financial implications of resigning and whether there are any alternatives to resigning. For example, if you have a partner whose income is sufficient to cover both of your expenses and those of the child and you don't mind an employment gap, resigning could be the right choice.

Alternatively, you may determine that the financial implications would place too much strain on you and that you'd like to maintain your ongoing career in some form. In this case, resigning might not be the right choice, although compromises and alternatives could be viable.

Related: Eight things for you to consider before walking out of a job

2. Consider alternative options

Once you've evaluated your situation, the next step is to consider alternatives. Even if you feel comfortable about the implications of resigning, you may still find that an alternative is more favourable. There are broadly two alternatives to leaving your current job. One is to reduce the number of hours you work to allow you to dedicate time to your child. The other is to maintain the hours but to seek a hybrid or other approach to work, such as working from home at least some of the time.

3. Talk to your manager

If you've made a decision or are still considering your options, it can be a good idea to talk to your manager about the decision. They may have encountered similar situations and be able to give you some insight. They can also answer any questions you might have, whether about the decision itself or alternatives. It may also be an opportunity to ask them for a reference if you subsequently look for new work.

Related: How to tell your boss you're quitting: a helpful guide

4. Give notice

If you've been unable to find a viable alternative, consult your employment contract to find out how much notice to give. Giving notice allows your employer to prepare for the transition and find people to cover your work. At least two weeks of notice is a good idea, although giving more can be better. You can also prepare a letter of resignation and help your manager with the transition during your last weeks at work.

Related: How to give two weeks' notice (steps, samples and tips)

How does parental leave work?

Statutory parental leave is a 52-week period of leave to which you're entitled when you're expecting a baby. It comprises two separate types, namely ordinary parental leave and additional parental leave. Each of these lasts 26 weeks. There's also a compulsory period of leave after the birth of the baby. After the birth, it's compulsory to take two weeks off work. If you work in a factory, this extends to four weeks after the birth of the baby. You can usually start parental leave 11 weeks before the week you expect the child to be born.

Parental leave starts automatically in two situations, one of which is the birth of the baby. The other situation is if you're away from work for a pregnancy-related illness within four weeks of the expected birth week. If you intend to change the date at which you return to work, give your employer at least eight weeks' notice. Statutory parental leave relates to your rights but some employers may offer more generous options. Anyone with an 'employee' classification has statutory parental leave entitlements.

Related: How long is maternity leave in the UK?

How does maternity pay work?

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is the pay to which you're entitled while on parental leave. Of the 52 weeks of statutory parental leave, you're entitled to SMP for up to 39 of them. SMP typically starts as soon as you begin your parental leave. The 39 weeks consist of two separate phases. During the first six weeks of your parental leave, you're entitled to 90% of your average earnings before tax. In the subsequent 33 weeks, you're entitled to either the same amount or £156.66 per week, whichever is lower. You still pay national insurance and tax on SMP.

If your parental leave starts automatically due to birth or a pregnancy-related illness, your SMP typically starts at the same time. Just like statutory parental leave, SMP is your legal right. Some employers may have more generous policies for their staff. To qualify for SMP, it's necessary that you earn at least £123 per week, that you've worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the time you're 15 weeks away from the birth week and that you give the necessary proof and notice.

Related: How to create a maternity leave plan and why it's necessary

Can I get SMP if I resign?

If you leave your job while on parental leave, you may have SMP entitlements under certain circumstances. Naturally, there's no entitlement to statutory parental leave as you've left your job. To be eligible for SMP, it's necessary that you're still an employee of the organisation by the end of the 15th week before the expected birth week, the name for which is the 'qualifying week'. If you resign prior to the qualifying week, you're typically not entitled to SMP.

If you resign after the qualifying week or at the end of it and are within the 39-week SMP period, you're entitled to the remainder of your SMP. For example, if you start your leave and SMP nine weeks before the expected birth week and then resign four weeks after that, you still have 35 weeks of SMP remaining to which you're entitled.

Related: What are employment conditions? (With examples and benefits)

Do I have to repay SMP if I resign?

No. If you've received any SMP prior to your resignation date, there's no requirement to repay any of it. The only possible exception is if your employer pays above the statutory minimum, in which case they might ask you to repay the additional amount. For your employer to do this, it's necessary that you either agree to it in advance or that it's in your employment contract.

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