Ataxia-telangiectasia mutated and Rad3 related (ATR)-Seckel syndrome and autosomal recessive primary microcephaly (MCPH) syndrome share clinical features. RNA interference (RNAi) of MCPH1 have implicated the protein it encodes as a DNA-damage response protein that regulates the transcription of Chk1 and BRCA1, two genes involved in the response to DNA damage. Here, we report that truncating mutations observed in MCPH-syndrome patients do not impact on Chk1 or BRCA1 expression or early ATR-dependent damage-induced phosphorylation events. However, like ATR-Seckel syndrome cells, MCPH1-mutant cell lines show defective G2-M checkpoint arrest and nuclear fragmentation after DNA damage, and contain supernumerary mitotic centrosomes. MCPH1-mutant and ATR-Seckel cells also show impaired degradation of Cdc25A and fail to inhibit Cdc45 loading onto chromatin after replication arrest. Additionally, microcephalin interacts with Chk1. We conclude that MCPH1 has a function downstream of Chk1 in the ATR-signalling pathway. In contrast with ATR-Seckel syndrome cells, MCPH1-mutant cells have low levels of Tyr 15-phosphorylated Cdk1 (pY15-Cdk1) in S and G2 phases, which correlates with an elevated frequency of G2-like cells displaying premature chromosome condensation (PCC). Thus, MCPH1 also has an ATR-independent role in maintaining inhibitory Cdk1 phosphorylation, which prevents premature entry into mitosis.