Having a new baby requires a lot of time and money, which can seem like a daunting prospect. Luckily, there are laws in place that help assist parents financially during and after the pregnancy.
In the same way that there is Statutory Holiday Pay and Statutory Sick Pay, expectant mothers can also take pregnancy and maternity leave and receive pay for part of it.
It's important to look into what you are entitled to as an expectant mother or father. However, Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay depends on your financial and employment situation, so it can differ from person to person.
In this article, we'll look at how much Statutory Maternity Pay you may be eligible for and how much paid leave you could take during your pregnancy and after it.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) lasts for up to 39 weeks. For the first six weeks, you are eligible for 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax. After this point, you are eligible for £156.66 or 90% of your average weekly earnings — depending on which one is lower.
Whether you are paid weekly, or monthly will depend on how often your usual wages are paid. Income Tax and National Insurance will also be deducted by your employer before the money is sent to your account. You will start receiving your maternity pay as soon as you begin your maternity leave. However, the pay will start automatically if you're off work because of a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks leading up to the week that your baby is due.
Continue reading to find out how much maternity pay you could be entitled to and how long you are eligible for it.
You qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay if you earn a minimum of £123 per week on average and have been in continuous employment with the same employer for at least 26 weeks. You must supply your employer with 15 weeks notice before your due date and proof of your pregnancy. The proof will be in the form of a letter from your doctor or midwife.
Individuals who are in police custody during their maternity leave period are not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay during and after the point that they are discharged from custody.
You are still eligible for both maternity leave and pay if your baby is born early, is stillborn (after the 24th week of your pregnancy) or if the baby dies after being born.
If you are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay, your employer must give you a form SMP1 within seven days. The form should contain an explanation of why they have made the decision. You may still be eligible for Maternity Allowance.
Your employer may offer contractual maternity pay, otherwise known as Enhanced Maternity Pay or Occupational Maternity Pay. This will be specified in your employment contract. Contractual Maternity Pay differs from company to company, but it must cover the Statutory Maternity Pay amount as a minimum.
You will qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave if you are an employee and you give your employer at least 15 weeks' notice before your due date. Your employer must confirm your leave start and end dates at least 28 days after your request. You will also need to supply your employer with proof, which is usually a letter from your doctor or midwife.
Although Statutory Maternity Pay only lasts for the first 39 weeks of maternity leave, you are entitled to 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave. The first 26 weeks are called Ordinary Maternity Leave, while the following 26 weeks are called Additional Maternity Leave.
The length of time that you have been employed at a company and the number of hours that you work will not impact how much Statutory Maternity Leave you get.
You don't have to take the full 52 weeks off work, but you must take the first two weeks of leave after your baby is born. This extends to four weeks if you work in a factory. You can use the government's Maternity and Paternity Leave calculator to find out how much leave you, and the baby's father are entitled to.
In most situations, the earliest that you can take Maternity Leave is 11 weeks before the week of your baby's due date. Leave will start the day after your baby is born if they arrive early or automatically if you are off work due to a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks leading up to the week that your baby is expected.
You must notify your employer at least eight weeks in advance if you plan to change the date that you return to work after your maternity leave.
The baby's father can receive one to two weeks of Statutory Paternity Leave. The Statutory Paternity rate of pay is £156.66, or 90% of your average weekly earnings – depending on which one is lower. You will get paid in the same way as you would your usual wages, such as weekly or monthly. Income Tax and National insurance will also be automatically deducted.
You will receive Statutory Paternity Pay whilst you are on leave. Your employer should confirm the start and end dates of your paternity leave when you claim it. Employers must be given at least 28 days' notice if there are any changes to the start of paternity leave.
Some companies offer paternity schemes which could mean that you are paid more than the statutory pay. All employers must pay Statutory Paternity Pay as a minimum.
You are eligible for Statutory Paternity Leave if you are one of the following:
- the baby's father
- husband or partner of the mother
- the child's adopter
- the intended parent (if the baby is from a surrogacy arrangement)
To be eligible for Statutory Paternity Leave, you must also be an employee and have given the correct notice to your employer. In addition, you must have been in continuous employment with the same company for a minimum of 26 weeks before the date that you qualify to begin paternity leave. The qualifying week is the 15th week before the baby is due, although this date is different if you are adopting a child.
You are eligible for Statutory Paternity Pay if you earn over £123 per week on average (before tax), have given your employer the correct notice period and have been employed with the company for at least 26 continuous weeks. You will need to give your employer a form SC3 at least 15 weeks prior to the baby's due date.
You and your partner can share a maximum of 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay. However, the actual leave and pay will depend on how much Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay you take. If you or your partner are eligible for Shared Parental Pay and Leave, you can take less than the 52-week allowance for maternity leave and use the remainder as Shared Parental Leave. You could also take less than the 39-week maternity pay and use the remainder as Shared Parental Pay.
Statutory Shared Parental Pay is paid to parents at £156.66 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, depending on which amount is lower. While this is the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay, SMP is paid at 90% for the first six weeks, no matter how much you earn.
You can start claiming Statutory Shared Parental Pay and Leave when the child has been born. To start claiming Statutory Shared Parental Leave, the mother must either have returned to work (which ends Statutory Maternity Leave) or have given their employer a 'binding notice' that states the date that they plan to end their leave.
Partners can start using Shared Parental Leave as long as the mother has given binding notice that will end their maternity leave.
You can choose to give notice of when you want to start your Shared Parental Leave at the same time that you give binding notice of when it will end.
Similar to Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance is a payment that you may be eligible to receive when you have a baby. You could receive the allowance if one of the following applies:
- you are employed but are not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay
- you are self-employed
- you have recently stopped working
- you do unpaid work for your partner or spouse's business
You can start claiming Maternity Allowance when you have been pregnant for 26 weeks. Payments can start up to 11 weeks before your baby's due date.
Mothers are eligible for Maternity Allowance for up to 39 weeks if any of the following are applicable in the 66 weeks leading up to their baby's due date:
- employed or self-employed for a minimum of 26 weeks
- earning at least £30 per week for a minimum of 13 weeks (although the weeks don't have to be continuous)
You may be eligible for Maternity Allowance for a maximum of 14 weeks if you have done one of the following for at least 26 of the 66 weeks leading up to the baby's due date:
- have undertaken unpaid work for a spouse or partner's business
- have not been self-employed or employed
In the same 26 weeks, your spouse or partner must also have:
- been registered as self-employed with HMRC
- pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions
If you lose the baby, you may still be eligible for the Maternity Allowance. You will qualify if the baby is stillborn after the start of the 24th week or is born alive and later passes away.
Maternity Allowance is paid every two or four weeks. Benefits, allowances and pensions will normally be paid straight into your bank or building society account.
If you were employed but recently stopped working, you will receive £156.66 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, depending on which one is less. You will be given this allowance for up to 39 weeks, which means that your final 13 weeks will be unpaid if you take the full 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave.
Self-employed individuals can get between £27 to £156.66 per week for a up to 39 weeks. The amount that you are eligible for will depend on how many Class 2 National Insurance contributions you have made in the 66 weeks leading up to your baby's due date.
To get the maximum £156.66 per week, you must have the following:
- been registered with HMRC for a minimum of 26 weeks of the 66 weeks leading up to your baby's due date
- paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions for a minimum of 13 weeks out of the 66 weeks prior to the baby arriving
If you've paid less than the 13 weeks of National Insurance contributions, HMRC will inform you of how many additional contributions you need to pay. after you pay the additional contributions, you will be paid £156.66 per week for 39 weeks. Class 2 National Insurance contributions are £3.15 per week.
You can get paid £27 a week for a maximum of 14 weeks if you do unpaid work for your spouse or partner's business.
Although receiving Maternity Allowance won't affect your tax credits, it will affect how much you get for benefits such as Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefits. This is because the benefit cap limits how many benefits you can get paid. The cap is £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) for couples and individuals with children that live outside of Greater London.
All mothers are eligible for two weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave after giving birth. SMP lasts for 39 weeks, although you may be eligible for 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave. The first six weeks of Maternity Pay is 90% of your earnings (before tax), no matter how much you earn. After this time, you are eligible for £156.66 or 90% of your average weekly earnings, depending on which one is lower.
You may be able to claim Maternity Allowance if you are not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay but you have recently stopped working, you are self-employed or you do unpaid work for your partner or spouse's business.
The government's maternity pay calculator can help you work out how much pay you are entitled to, based on your employment situation. The baby's father is also eligible for one to two weeks of Statutory Paternity Leave. The weekly rate of Statutory Paternity Pay is £156.66, or 90% of your average weekly earnings, depending on which one is lower.