Maternity Pay

When you’re pregnant, you are entitled to get either one of the following benefits: Statutory Maternity Pay or Statutory Maternity Allowance. This will depend on whether you are still working prior to going on maternity leave and, if you are, how much you earn and how long you have worked for the same employer.

Also always check your company policy because in many cases, companies offer enhanced maternity rights and pay, which includes statutory maternity pay.

The Government has introduced a new system of statutory parental rights as of 5 April 2015 which will effectively allow parents to share maternity pay and leave. The same qualifying requirements that currently apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay will apply. The new system will not restrict the flexibility of parental leave but will leave it to each parent and their employer to agree between themselves the pattern of leave. Please see details of shared parental leave on our page.

Statutory Maternity Pay – If you have been pregnant for 11 weeks prior to the start of the expected week of childbirth and have been earning at least as much as the lower earnings limit each week (which is the level of wages where national insurance contributions start) and you have been working for the same employer for at least 26 weeks, by the time you are 15 weeks away from the date your baby is due, you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay for 39 weeks. Please note that the 26 week period must include at last one day’s employment in the 15th week (the Qualifying Week).

Statutory Maternity Pay is paid:

  • for the first six weeks at 90 per cent of your average gross weekly earnings with no upper limit and
  • for the remaining 33 weeks at the lower of either the standard rate of £140.98  (from April 2017), or 90 per cent of your average gross weekly earnings

Your employer will work out the rate of Statutory Maternity Pay you will get.

Please note that if you start work with a new employer before your baby is born your SMP is not affected and your previous employer will still have to pay you SMP but if you start work with a new employer after your baby is born (in other words, if you work for an employer who did not employ you in the 15th week before the week your baby was due) then your SMP will stop. You must tell the employer paying you SMP. Provided you have been working up to the Qualifying Week, SMP is still due to you even if you have been dismissed or have resigned during maternity leave or before childbirth.

Statutory Maternity Allowance is a benefit for women who have been working but who do not meet the work and earnings conditions for Statutory Maternity Pay as set out above. You can get Statutory Maternity Allowance if you have been working recently or if you have stopped working to have a child. You must have been working for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before you are due to give birth. It does not matter if these weeks are split up, or if they are not all for the same employer. Basically you can claim Statutory Maternity Allowance if you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, as long as you have been earning at least £30 a week on average over any 13 week period. Statutory Maternity Allowance does not depend on national insurance contributions.

Statutory Maternity Allowance is available for women who are not employed or self-employed. Therefore if you are not employed or self-employed you may be able to get Statutory Maternity Allowance if you regularly take part (help) in your self-employed spouse’s or partner’s business. You must also not be a partner or employee in the business.

You might also be able to get Statutory Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks if for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before your baby is due:

  • You’re married or in a civil partnership
  • You’re not employed or self-employed
  • You take part in the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner
  • The work that you do is for the business and unpaid
  • Your spouse or civil partner is registered as self-employed with HMRC and should pay Class 2 National Insurance
  • Your spouse or civil partner is working as a self-employed person
  • You are not eligible for SMP.

The amount of Statutory Maternity Allowance you get is either £140.98 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less) for up to 39 weeks. Maternity Allowance is paid every 2 or 4 weeks. You may get an additional amount for your husband, civil partner, or someone else who looks after your children, if that person is on a very low income.

You should claim Statutory Maternity Allowance on form MA1 which you can get:

  • in England, Wales and Scotland, by phoning Jobcentre Plus on: freephone 0800 055 6688 or textphone 0800 023 4888.
  • in England, Wales and Scotland, from the Directgov website at
  • from antenatal clinics
  • from local benefits offices.

You should return the form to your local benefits office. You will need medical evidence of your pregnancy, usually your maternity certificate (MATB1 Form) (( as well as proof of your income, such as original payslips, Certificate of Small Earnings Exemption (if applicable). If you claim Maternity Allowance after your baby is born, you should provide the birth certificate. If you are employed, you also have to provide Form SMP1 from your employer, which confirms that you are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay.

You can claim at any time once you are 26 weeks pregnant. If you claim late, you can get Maternity Allowance up to three months before you claim if you could have qualified for benefit earlier. It does not matter why your claim is late.

When you claim Maternity Allowance, you have to provide your national insurance number. You will normally also have to give the national insurance number of your husband, civil partner or other adult who looks after your children if you are claiming an additional amount for this person.

You can get Maternity Allowance for up to 39 weeks. The earliest it can start to be paid is the 11th week before your baby is due. The latest it can start is just after your baby is born. There are rules about when your Maternity Allowance has to start being paid if you are not working, or you are not entitled to Maternity Allowance until later in your pregnancy.

If a woman is not entitled to SMP or MA she may be able to get Employment and Support Allowance (“ESA“). If a woman makes a claim for MA and does not qualify, she will automatically be considered for ESA as an alternative payment. The qualifying conditions for ESA are different from that used to determine MA. ESA depends upon the payment of National Insurance contributions in the relevant income tax years. ESA can be paid for 6 weeks before the expected week of confinement and for 14 days after the baby is born, subject to satisfying the conditions of entitlement for ESA. A woman’s maternity certificate (MATB1) is accepted as evidence of having limited capability for work for ESA for this period.

Pension Contributions

During Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) your employer must continue to pay full pension contributions as though you were working normally, whether or not you plan to return to work afterwards. This applies whether you are being paid maternity pay or not. Your employer’s contributions must be based on your normal pay. If your pension scheme requires you to pay contributions they will be based on the maternity pay (Statutory Maternity Pay or contractual maternity pay) that you actually receive.

You will continue to be entitled to pension contributions from your employer during some of your Additional Maternity Leave (AML), for the time you are still getting maternity pay. Entitlement ends once maternity pay ends. As with OML, your employer’s contributions should be based on your normal pay and your contributions should be based on the maternity pay you actually receive. It is not clear whether you are entitled to pension contributions after your paid maternity leave has ended. You should seek advice if there is a dispute with your employer about this.

Contact the the Parental Choice team today for free, impartial advice. You can also find out more about our services that include nanny payroll, nanny contracts, and comprehensive childcare searches.

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