Q I am expecting my first child later this year. I am currently in full time employment and I would like to know how much I will earn during my maternity leave. LD, East Belfast
Answer: Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is available to employees, provided a number of criteria are met. To qualify, an employee must:
be employed in the 15th week before the due date of the baby and have been in continuous employment for the period of 26 weeks prior to the 15th week before the due date; and
earning at least £95 per week on average (for the tax year 2009/10)
If you qualify then you are entitled to 39 weeks of SMP. This is paid for the first six weeks at a rate of 90% of your average weekly earnings and then the lower of the 90% of the average earnings and £123.06 for the remaining 33 weeks. SMP is typically paid by the employer on the date that you normally receive your pay.
The average weekly earnings are calculated using the gross salary paid to you in the eight week period prior to the 15th week before the baby is due. It is important to note that, just like your normal salary, SMP is subject to both tax and National Insurance, if applicable.
To claim SMP you must tell your employer at least four weeks (28 days) before you intend to commence your maternity leave. You should receive a maternity certificate (MAT B1) from your doctor and this should be presented to your employer.
In addition, the father of the baby may have the right to receive two weeks’ Statutory Paternity Pay.
I would finish by advising that this is the statutory amount you are entitled to. In some instances the employer may supplement the SMP and offer additional salary payments. You should consult your contract or your employer’s handbook for further information on your employer’s maternity pay policy.