Legal consequences of studying during maternity leave

SWmum asks Mum & Career

I’m hoping you can help me with some information I am looking for. I am due to have my first baby on 11th April 2013 and also have a place on a masters course starting September 2013. I have been trying to find out if I am allowed to study during my maternity leave but there is very little information available.

All official information just talks about what you are entitled to on maternity, rather than what you can do with it. I found an article on your website ( that suggests studying for a new qualification and hoped you might have some information about the legalities.

The course is full time but lectures are just two afternoons a week so I would be able to organise study in a way that suits me. My husband is self employed and works from home and my father is retiring just in time to help with childcare so I will have plenty of support. The course lectures finish in March so if take 12 months maternity leave I could have almost finished by the time I return to work.

I definitely want to do the course as my career is at a standstill without it, so if I absolutely had to I could resign from my job but I’d rather not if I don’t have to, especially in the current economic climate.

I’d be very grateful if you have any advice or could point me in the direction of any relevant information.



Expert Claire answers

This is an interesting question. There is nothing in the maternity legislation that prohibits you studying( or doing anything else for that matter!) during your maternity leave. If you return to work (other than for 10 Keeping in Touch days) or start work with another employer you will lose your statutory maternity pay. However, if you are undertaking a course this will not affect your pay. You should check your contract of employment to ensure there is no contractual obligation on you to obtain your employer’s consent in respect of anything you plan to do but generally this would be restricted to undertaking alternative employment and not studies.



Expert Working Families answers

Hi, I agree completely with Claire’s response. There is almost certainly no problem with your studying, although you might want to check your employment contract. It certainly doesn’t affect your statutory maternity pay, nor would it affect maternity allowance, tax credits, child benefit and any other payment you might be receiving as a working mum. There is an implied term of trust and confidence in any employment contract but I think it’s unlikely that studying during maternity leave would breach this – though as Claire says, it’s worth checking just in case it’s something your employer would see as an issue.

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