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Maternity Pay

If you are having a baby, you are entitled to certain maternity benefits depending on your circumstances.

When you take time off to have a baby you might be eligible for:

  • Statutory Maternity Leave
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Paid time off for antenatal care (care during pregnancy)
  • Extra help from the government

Statutory Maternity Leave

Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks. Statutory simply means here that your employer has to offer up to 52 weeks, if you qualify for it. It’s made up of:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave (first 26 weeks)
  • Additional Maternity Leave (last 26 weeks)

You don’t have to take 52 weeks but you must take two weeks’ leave after your baby is born (or four weeks if you work in a factory)

You can use this maternity planner from the Government to work out the earliest date you can start your maternity leave

You qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave if:

  • You’re an employee (and not a ‘worker’)*
  • You give your employer the correct notice

Please Note: All employees are workers, but not all workers are employees – an ‘employee’ has extra employment rights and responsibilities. See more here.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with your employer, how many hours you work or how much you get paid, you can still get Statutory Maternity Leave if you’re an employee.

Statutory Maternity Pay

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid by your employer for up to 39 weeks. You get:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £138.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

Use the maternity pay calculator to work out how much you could get.

Your employer cannot pay you less than they are meant to by law. However, some companies might pay you more if it is in your employment contract. This is called ‘Occupational Maternity Pay’.

SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (e.g. monthly or weekly) and usually starts when you start your maternity leave. Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

To qualify for SMP, you must:

  • Earn on average at least £111 a week
  • Give the correct notice
  • Give proof you’re pregnant
  • Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth - called the ‘qualifying week’

If you’re not allowed to get SMP, your employer must give you form SMP1 - explaining why you can’t get SMP - within 7 days of making their decision. You could get Maternity Allowance instead.

Maternity Allowance

Maternity Allowance is usually paid to you by Jobcentre Plus if you don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay from your employer.

You might get Maternity Allowance for 39 weeks if you are employed but can’t get Statutory Maternity Pay.

If so, you could get £138.18 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

You might get Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks if you’re not employed/self-employed or if you are married/in a civil partnership for at least 26 weeks out of the 66 weeks before your baby is due.

If so, you could get £27 a week for up to 14 weeks. This only applies if your baby is due on or after 27th July 2014.

Other rules also apply for both and they can be seen here.

All benefits and allowances are paid into an account, such as a bank account, so do get yourself one!

How to claim

Print off and fill in the MA1 claim form or fill it in online, then print it off and send it to the address on the form. The form has help notes on how to fill it in.

You can phone Jobcentre Plus on 0345 608 8610 or text them on 0800 023 4888 for more info.

The full, technical guide to maternity benefits can be seen here.

Other maternity benefits

If you are not allowed to get either SMP or MA, you may be able to get some Employment and Support Allowance instead.

There are other benefits you might also be able to claim whilst on maternity. Use a trusted benefits calculator to work out what help you could get from:

  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Working Tax Credit - this can continue for 39 weeks after you go on maternity leave
  • Income Support - you may get this while you’re not working
  • You could get a £500 Sure Start Maternity Grant (usually if it’s your first child)

MA’s effect on other benefits

Maternity Allowance won’t affect your tax credits. However, you cannot claim SSP, ESA or JSA if you’re claiming MA.

How much Council Tax Reduction, Housing Benefit, Income Support, bereavement benefits and Carer’s Allowance you get will also be affected if you claim MA.

The new benefit cap will affect the total amount of benefit you can get from these benefits.

If you normally claim JSA, it will stop at the beginning of the 11th week before the baby’s due day, and then MA payments will start.

If you fall or are still ill when your MA stops, you can claim Statutory Sick Pay or Employment and Support Allowance, even if you have not returned to work.

Your MA may be decreased or stopped if you get another social security benefit or a training allowance e.g. an allowance under the Youth Training Scheme.

The Money Advice Service has put together this great, simple, full guide to which benefits you can claim when having a baby.

Paternity Leave and Pay

When you take time off because your partner’s having a baby or adopting a child, you might be eligible for:

  • One or two weeks paid Ordinary Paternity Leave
  • Up to 26 weeks’ paid Additional Paternity Leave - but only if the mother / co-adopter returns to work

You may not get both leave and pay.

If your partner has a multiple birth (e.g. twins) the amount of leave is the same.

Leave can’t start before the birth and it must end within 56 days of the birth.

You must take your leave in one go. ‘A week’ is the same amount of days that you normally work in a week e.g. if you only work on Mondays and Tuesdays, a week is two days.

Your employer cannot give you less leave than the law requires, but some companies might give you more leave if it is in your employment contract.

If you want OPL, you must tell your employer at least 15 weeks before the week the baby is expected:

  • The baby’s due date
  • When you want your leave to start (e.g. the day of the birth or the week after the birth)
  • If you want one or two weeks’ leave

Work out when to tell your employer that you want paternity leave online.

Your employer can ask for this in writing. You can ask for paternity pay at the same time, if you use form SC3, or your employer’s own version.

The statutory weekly rate of Ordinary Paternity Pay and Additional Paternity Pay is £138.18, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

It is paid in the same way as your wages (e.g. monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

If you want OPP, you must give your employer form SC3, or their own version (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/forms/sc3.pdf) at least 28 days before you want your pay to start.

If you want APL and APP, give your employer one of the forms from here (or their own versions) at least 8 weeks before you want to start your APL or receive APP.

The rules and forms are different if you adopt.

To qualify for OPL, you must:

  • Be an employee
  • Give the correct notice
  • Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth - called the ‘qualifying week’

To qualify for OPP, you must:

  • Earn on average at least £111 a week
  • Give the correct notice
  • Be employed by your employer up to the date of birth
  • Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth - called the ‘qualifying week’

The rules to qualify for APP and APL are similar but detailed, and are found here.

If you’re not able to claim OPP (APP), your employer must give you form OSPP1 (ASPP1) - explaining why you can’t get it - within 28 days.

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