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Eligible employees who are having a baby have the right to take up to a year of maternity leave – no matter how long they have worked for an employer.  Maternity leave can start 11 weeks before your baby is due.

During maternity leave, it is likely that they will also be entitled to some form of maternity pay.

This article will break down the different types of maternity pay; explaining what they are, if you’re eligible and how much you will receive.

If you’ve been in work for a minimum of 26 weeks before your due date, you should qualify for either Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance.  In certain cases, an employer may offer Contractual Maternity Pay.

So what are these different types of pay?

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

Am I eligible?

To qualify for SMP you’ll need to:

  • Earn on average at least £118 a week (worked out from your last 8 weeks / 2 months’ pay);
  • Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the ‘qualifying week’ (the 15th week before your baby is due);
  • Give the correct notice; and
  • Provide your employer with proof that you are pregnant.

Agency workers can get SMP if they meet certain conditions (such as working for the agency in all or for part of the qualifying weeks) and their agency deducts tax and National Insurance from their earnings.

What Do I Get?

If you qualify for SMP, you will be entitled to receive payments for up to 39 weeks.

The earliest you can get your SMP is 11 weeks before your baby is expected to arrive.

For the first six weeks, you will receive 90% of your gross average weekly earnings, after which time you will get £148.68 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less).

If you chose to take your full 52-week maternity leave entitlement, the final 13 weeks will be unpaid.

Maternity Allowance (MA)

What is it?

If you don’t qualify for SMP, you may be entitled to MA, which is a tax-free, weekly benefit paid by the Government.

If you are self-employed, it is likely that MA may be the only option of maternity pay open to you.

Am I eligible?

To be eligible for MA, you must:

  • Have been employed or have been self-employed for a minimum of 26 of the 66 weeks before your due date; and
  • Have earned on average at least £30 a week in any 13 of those 26 weeks.

What do I get?

You can claim MA from the 26th week of your pregnancy, but payments can only start 11 weeks before your due date.

You will receive £148.68 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less) for 39 weeks.  You may get less if you do not have enough qualifying weeks or made enough NI contributions.

The maternity entitlement calculator is a useful tool to find out exactly how much you’re entitled to.

Contractual Maternity Pay

What is it?

Contractual Maternity Pay is offered as a benefit by some employers.  It is not available to the self-employed.

Contractual maternity is usually paid at a higher rate than SMP and for a longer period of time.

Your statutory entitlement to SMP will be considered to have been paid as part of this entitlement.

What do I get?

How much you receive and for how long will depend on your Company’s Policy dealing with the entitlement.

You should be able to find the policy in either your contract or staff handbook.  If you can’t find the information or want to discuss the policy details further, speak to your line manager or HR Department.

There is usually a catch in respect of contractual maternity pay, in that if you choose not to return to work after maternity leave, an employer may ask you to pay back the enhanced pay you have received.  It is therefore important that you make yourself familiar with the details of the policy and any payments/implications/rights flowing from it.

Where do I start?

The first thing you will need to do is tell your employer you are pregnant.  You must do this 15 weeks before your baby is due, however, most tell their employers sooner than this.

As proof of your pregnancy, you can provide a letter from your GP or midwife but most employers will wait to receive your MATB1 Certificate, which should be given to you no more than 20 weeks before your baby is due.

Your employer will then need to know the day you want your Maternity Leave to start.  You must give them at least 28 days’ notice of this.

Your employer must then confirm whether you are entitled to SMP, and if so, exactly how much you will get and when this will start and stop (based on your proposed dates).  This can obviously change as the pregnancy progresses, for example, if your baby comes earlier than expected, your Maternity Leave will commence and SMP should start.

If you are not eligible for SMP, your employer must give you Form SMP1 within 7 days, this will allow you to make a claim for MA.

If you require more information or believe you are being discriminated against by your employer as a result of your pregnancy, we can help. Our employment law team are highly experienced in cases of pregnancy and/or maternity discrimination.

Contact us today on 0161 930 5151 or email

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