Today was my last at work. I have a few days leave to use up so my maternity leave doesn't officially start till the New Year. It feels really surreal, because I've always had a mental picture that I would start seriously preparing for the pipsqueak once I had finished work. So now, that's it.
It was a very quiet day at work, with a lot of people on leave or at meetings etc. The overall feeling in the office is one of pessimism; everyone thinks that 2009 will be a very difficult year. In a way, this is a very good time to be on maternity leave as I will be away during the hard times.
I can't complain about my conditions; I can have up to one year's leave and go back to my current job, or my Employer has to provide me with an equivalent position. (This is Employment Law in the UK) I get 12 weeks maternity leave at 90% pay and statutory maternity pay (SMP) for 6 months after that, which is about £500 a month. The company will also continue to pay for my health insurance, mobile phone, pension and car allowance (hooray!) while I am on leave. In this situation though, the most valuable thing is that your job is essentially safeguarded for one year.
The UK minimum is 6 weeks at 90%, but it really depends on your Employer. A friend of mine had 6 months full pay, then her SMP kicked in. She was on maternity leave for a year, went back to work for a few weeks, then resigned. And you know what, her company actually owed her money because you still accrue annual leave when you are on maternity leave, so they had to pay her for the annual leave that she didn't take. Unfortunately, not all companies are that generous!