Pregnant employees in the UK are entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay.
First things first, there are three types of maternity pay; each is different in the amount of pay and duration. These are:
- Statutory maternity pay (SMP): This article will cover the details of this type.
- Contractual maternity pay: This will be determined by your employer and should be listed in your employment contract. It will always be more than statutory maternity pay. Almost two-thirds of UK businesses now offer maternity pay that’s more generous than the statutory minimum.
- Maternity allowance: You can calculate this using this maternity pay calculator.
In this article, we’ll cover everything related to the first option, statutory maternity pay, including details about paid maternity leave, how to know if you qualify for SMP and how much maternity pay you are entitled to.
Statutory Maternity Leave
No matter how long you have been working for your company, you are entitled to 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave which is constituted of:
- Ordinary maternity leave: the first 26 weeks.
- Additional maternity leave: the final 26 weeks.
This is not compulsory. How many weeks you take off work is your decision – up to the 52-week maximum. However, you are required to take at least 2 weeks off after the birth of your baby. If you work in a factory, this increases to 4 weeks. If you want to change the date you’re returning to work, tell your employer at least 8 weeks’ before the new date.
Even though you are eligible for 52 weeks off work, you will only get paid for 39 of those. This is as long as you are legally classed as an employee within your company. More on this below.
It’s standard practice to begin your leave 11 weeks before your due date, but it can also start the day after your baby is born if they arrive earlier than expected.
Maternity leave can also start by default if you’re already away from work due to complications or an illness related to the pregnancy. This must be within the 4 weeks leading up to your due date (Sunday – Saturday).
Pension contribution whilst on maternity leave
Your employer must continue contributing to your pension while you’re on maternity leave. They must pay the same amount as they did before the leave started. If you’re not receiving maternity pay, or your maternity leave period has ended, your employer is free to stop contributing to your pension as in this case, you are able to contribute to your pension yourself.
Statutory Maternity Leave Pay (SMP)
For up to 39 weeks of your maternity leave, you are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).
For the first 6 weeks, this should be 90% of your average weekly earnings. Then, for the following 33 weeks, you should receive either £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever of the two is less. The government’s maternity pay calculator is the easiest way to determine exactly what you’ll get.
Here are a few important things to note:
- You’ll be paid however you usually receive your wages, whether that be monthly or weekly.
- All of these calculations are done before tax. Tax and national insurance will both be deducted from your SMP.
- For those on Shared Parental Leave, you will receive Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) for the entire period of leave. This is £172.48 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings – again, whichever is less.
- In April every year, statutory maternity pay increases. If this happens whilst you’re already being paid, you’ll receive the new amount from the date that it comes into effect.
- Usually, an employer will use the 8 weeks before the 15th week before your baby is due to work out your average pay.
- As the calculations for statutory maternity pay are largely based on your average pay, it’s best to keep it as high as possible whilst your SMP amount is being calculated by your company. For people on varying pay, this would mean timing your work strategically to align with calculations. For others, this could involve avoiding unpaid time off and taking extra shifts.
- If you take the full 52 weeks of maternity leave, the last 13 weeks will be unpaid, unless your contract offers enhanced maternity pay.
Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay Entitlement
Entitlement for maternity leave and maternity pay are two separate things with different criteria.
You must be classified as an employee rather than a ‘worker’ to be entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave and give your employer the legally required amount of notice.
Qualifying for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
You must fit the following criteria to qualify for SMP:
- Earn £123 or above per week.
- Be able to show proof of pregnancy.
- Provide your employer with the legally required notice.
- Have already worked at your current company/the same employer for 26 weeks or more continuously, entering into the 15th week before your baby is due. This is the ‘qualifying week’, which can be worked out by counting back 15 weeks from the week you are due to have your baby. It is important to work out when your qualifying week is so that you know when you need to give notice to your employer to get maternity leave and pay. You also need to know your qualifying week as it determines whether you get Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance.
- You have not entered into police custody at any point during the maternity pay period.
- If your baby dies after birth, is born prematurely, or is stillborn after your 24th week, you are still entitled to statutory maternity pay.
If you’re eligible for Statutory maternity leave pay and have more than one employer, you may be eligible to get Statutory maternity leave pay from both.
Start and End Date of Statutory Maternity Pay
In normal circumstances, statutory maternity pay begins when you start maternity leave. Again, this can also start by default if you’re already away from work due to complications or an illness related to the pregnancy. This must be within the 4 weeks leading up to your due date (Sunday – Saturday).
It will automatically end when you resume your job or start a new one.
What is it?
Maternity allowance is a financial benefit allocated to self-employed women or women who don’t earn over £113 per week. Employees who don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave generally get maternity allowance.
The Department for Work and Pensions provides this support allowance instead of your employer. You must apply for it yourself to receive the benefit. The amount you receive depends upon your eligibility.
- You could either receive 151.20 a week, or 90% of your earnings for 39 weeks. This is dependent on whichever is less.
- £27 a week for 39 weeks
- £27 a week for 14 weeks
Who is Entitled?
Certain conditions also exist regarding your entitlement to this type of maternity pay. You will not be entitled if you haven’t worked the 26 qualifying weeks. However, these 26 weeks can be across two different employers. You are also not eligible for this type of maternity pay if you earn less than £30 a week.
How to Ask For Maternity Leave and Pay
For maternity leave, you must tell your employer at least 15 weeks before your baby is due. Inform them of the due date and the date you want your maternity leave to start. They might ask for this in writing, which they’re entitled to do. Get written confirmation of the start and end dates from your employer within the 28 day period following this.
Similarly, for statutory maternity pay, you must:
- Inform your employer when you’ll be stopping work and the date you would like SMP to begin. Again, you must show proof of pregnancy and let them know with at least 28 days’ notice. This can be a letter from a doctor or midwife, or a MATB1 certificate.
- Get written confirmation of the start and end dates from your employer within the 28 day period following this.
- If your application is rejected on the grounds that you’re not eligible, make sure you get the form SMP1 within 7 days alongside a reason.
Common Maternity Leave and Maternity Pay Questions
What is statutory maternity?
No matter how long you have been working for your company, you are entitled to 52 weeks of Statutory Maternity Leave which is constituted of ordinary maternity leave (the first 26 weeks) and additional maternity leave (the final 26 weeks). If you’re eligible for statutory maternity pay, you will receive 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks. Then, for the following 33 weeks, you should receive either £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever of the two is less.
Can I extend my maternity leave after 52 weeks?
No. This is the maximum amount required by law, however, you can come to an agreement with your employer. They may allow you to take more time off.
Is 6 months maternity leave enough?
It’s recommended that mothers take the full 52 weeks of paid leave, for the health of both mother and baby. In the case of shared parental leave, this could be 6 months per parent.
What is the NHS maternity pay?
The same as statutory maternity pay. For the first 6 weeks, this should be 90% of your average weekly earnings. Then, for the following 33 weeks, you should receive either £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever of the two is less.
Does the employer pay maternity pay UK?
Yes, as long as you have worked for them in continuous employment for at least 26 weeks before the due date AND you work for them during the 15th week before the due date.
How much is maternity pay UK 2023?
Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks. Then, for the following 33 weeks, you should receive either £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever of the two is less. Contractual maternity pay is decided by your employer. For those that don’t qualify for SMP, maternity allowance can be calculated using this calculator.
What are the qualifying weeks for maternity pay UK?
Qualifying weeks can be worked out by counting back 15 weeks from the week you are due to have your baby. It is important to work out when your qualifying week is so that you know when you need to give notice to your employer to get maternity leave and pay. You also need to know your qualifying week as it determines whether you get Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance.
Who can claim maternity allowance?
Anyone that has been pregnant for 26 weeks. The recipient can then receive payments up to 11 weeks before your due date.