If you are a pregnant employee, you will be entitled to take 52 weeks Statutory Maternity leave around the birth of your child. Your employer will pay you Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if you meet the qualifying conditions.
In order to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, you must:
- have been employed by the same employer for at least 26 continuous weeks in to the 15th week before your baby is due; and
- be earning an average of at least £102 per week (the lower earnings limit).
If you qualify for SMP, it will be paid for the first 6 weeks at 90% of your average gross weekly earnings. For the remaining 33 weeks, it will be paid at either the standard rate of £128.73, or 90% of your average wage, whichever is lower. Your employer may give you enhanced maternity pay, for example, they may pay you more than your SMP over a certain period, or they may make a bonus payment on your return to work.
In order to claim SMP, you should speak to your employer and tell them when you want it to start, as well as providing medical evidence to show the date that your baby is due. SMP is usually paid in the same way and at the same time as your normal wages, and it will be paid for up to 39 weeks.
You can work for up to 10 days during your Maternity Pay period, without losing your entitlement. These are known as ‘Keeping in Touch’ days. If you work more than 10 days however, you will lose your SMP for each week in your maternity pay period in which you do that work. If you are sick at the end of your SMP, you may claim statutory sick pay from your employer.
If you disagree with your employers SMP decision, for example, a decision not to pay you SMP, or if you do not think that you are getting the right amount, you should ask your employer for a reason. If you are still not satisfied, you can contact HMRC’s employee enquiry line on 0845 302 1479.
Maternity Allowance is a benefit for working pregnant women who are unable to claim SMP. Maternity Allowance is paid for up to 26 weeks, and is not subject to tax or National Insurance contributions. It will be paid if you have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks of the test period (66 weeks up to and including the week before your baby is due), and if you have earned £30 a week, averaged over any 13 weeks during the test period. If you are entitled to Maternity Allowance, you will receive £128.73 or 90% of your average gross weekly earning, whichever is the lowest amount. Like SMP, Maternity Allowance will be paid for up to 39 weeks. Maternity Allowance is paid through the Social Security Agency.
For more information on Statutory Maternity Pay. contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. Further guidance can be found on www.nidirect.gov.uk.
Sian Fisher is an Information Officer with Citizens Advice.