Preparing for the birth of your baby is an exciting but stressful time — especially if it’s your first child. You’ll need to make sure you’re fully prepared for the arrival of your little bean. But first things first, you need to get your time off work approved to ensure you’re covered by your statutory pay while you’re on leave — and have a job to go back to.
Maternity leave will give you the time to recover from childbirth and bond with your little one before you’re thrown back into the real world as a working mom. But in order to get your full maternity allowance, you need to put all the details in writing.
This guide will walk you through the steps to preparing a professional maternity leave letter, with some useful samples.
Why you need to write a maternity leave letter
When it comes to making important requests in the workplace, it’s a good idea to have everything down in writing. If you choose to speak to your boss in person about your upcoming absence, it’s best to follow that up with a letter or email, just to keep a record of the key dates and information you brought forward.
By law, you are not required to let your employer know until later on in the pregnancy. However, consider having this conversation early, at the start of the second trimester, as trying to conceal a pregnancy can be stressful for both you and the baby.
As always, have a look at company policy if you’re unsure about minimum notice requirements.
What to include in your letter
From cover letters to complaint letters and resignation letters, all written communication you hand in to your employer should follow formal letter structure. Regardless of content, these should include a date, your name and address, your recipient’s name and address, and your signature. Make sure you’ve got all that down in your request for maternal leave.
Aside from that, the letter to your employer should include:
- What you are writing to inform them about, in this case that you plan to start your maternity leave in a few months’ time
- Your due date and the starting date of your leave
- How many weeks you’re planning on staying home and the date you intend to return to work (barring any unforeseen events)
- A list of any projects you’re currently working on that might need reassigning while you are away
- Your contact information, so your employer can contact you in case something important comes up
How to structure your letter
Official requests in the workplace need to be put in writing and formatted correctly. These tips below will help you achieve this in your maternity leave letter writing.
- Sender’s address: Start your letter with your address in the left-hand corner of the page. In the US, it’s acceptable to have this address in the right-hand corner. (Skip this step if you’re going to send your notice via email.)
- Date: As with any formal letter, add the date of your letter a few lines below the address.
- Subject line: Keep the subject of your email short and to the point. It could be something like: ‘Maternity Leave Request’.
- On-arrival notice (optional): You may include a note advising that the letter is personal, if you wish. Make sure you use uppercase for this, eg: “PERSONAL” or “CONFIDENTIAL”.
- Inside address: Your company’s address should appear a few lines below the above. You can skip this if you’re sending an email.
- Salutation: As with any professional letter, you need to open with the correct formal salutation. Even if you’re best buds with your boss, you need to address him properly, eg: “Dear Calvin”.
- Opening paragraph: This is where you should advise what the purpose of the letter is and how long you plan to be away during your maternity period. Do you want to take the full allowance or just part of it? You will also need to specify the dates you will be leaving and returning to work, as well as the date your baby is due.
- Body: In the letter’s body, you should specify how you plan on covering your projects while you’re out of action.
- Final paragraph: In this paragraph, you can state how you plan on returning to work; you should also provide your personal contact details for when you are on your maternity leave.
- Closing: It’s important to close your letter by showing appreciation for your job and thanking your employer for their understanding during this important period of your life.
- Your name and signature: If you’re giving your employer a printed letter, opt for a handwritten signature. If you’re sending an email, simply write your name.
Tips for writing your letter
So far, we’ve talked about the benefits of handing in a letter versus informing your employer verbally. We’ve also covered the main points you should include in your letter.
Before you start writing, read through some final, useful tips that can help you achieve a professional tone and ensure your transition from office to home is a smooth one.
1. Emphasize your excitement to re-enter the workforce
Although you’re probably thrilled to have a change of scenery for at least 12 weeks, do not let your employer catch wind. It’s important to stress how you will be looking forward to returning to the office once you’ve settled in at home with your baby.
2. If you’re unsure, request the maximum amount of leave
It can be hard to tell how much time you will need off work after you’ve delivered your baby. With postnatal depression being common among first-time moms, you might not feel up to returning to work just a month after giving birth. As such, it’s best to request the maximum time of absence you’re entitled to; that’s 12 weeks of maternity leave. You can always change this later down the line if you feel ready to return to the office before your entitlement is over.
3. Hand in your letter ASAP
It’s advisable to hand in your maternity leave letter as soon as you have the all-clear from your midwife that you’re in your pregnancy’s safe period (this is usually after three months have passed). By law, you should tell your employer that you are pregnant no later than 15 weeks before your baby is due.
4. Be sure to have all the correct paperwork
In addition to your formal letter, if you’re in the UK, you will also need a maternity certificate from your doctor (MAT B1) confirming your pregnancy and your due date. This is usually given after you’ve reached 21 weeks of pregnancy.
Printed letter sample
This sample letter taken from Sample Resignation Letters can be used for an employee who is planning on taking the full maternity allowance. Of course, it can be tweaked to fit your specific circumstances.
Pregnancies are often unexpected, and a few mothers seem to experience pregnancy difficulties that force them to take their maternity leave sooner than expected. The following email template can help you inform your manager and HR department about these kinds of situations.
Maternity leave letter template
Since your letter will serve as official notice to your employer, it must follow the structure of a business letter. And, because we know that these types of letters can be tricky to write, we’ve included the following maternity leave letter template to help you quickly get started.
Things to remember
As a soon-to-be mom, many things will start requiring your full attention. The points below can help you eliminate additional stress, at least where work is concerned.
- Request a gradual return: Going back to work after spending a long period at home with your newborn baby can be challenging. To help you ease back into working life, ask your employer if you can have a flexible schedule or if you can work reduced hours for the first month until you get back into the swing of things.
- Speak to your HR department: It’s wise to contact your HR department in the weeks and months leading up to your maternity leave. They will be able to advise on healthcare, childcare and any additional benefits the company offers.
- Make recommendations on your replacement: Leaving your duties in the hands of another employer can be scary — especially if it’s someone that you don’t know or trust. If you think your tasks can be handled by your colleagues, propose this to your manager. Alternatively, if you know someone that can be a good match in your absence, suggest this scenario to your boss.
Asking for maternity leave can be stressful, especially if you are quite new to the team. However, as a mother and a working woman, you’re entitled to this allowance. By following the right procedure, a huge weight will be lifted off your shoulders, knowing that your leave has been accepted without affecting the future of your career.
Did you find this useful? Share it with your friends so they know how to write a maternity leave letter, too!
Originally published March 21, 2018. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.