The UK Rules
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Maternity Pay and Leave

Maternity Pay and Leave Entitlement

As a rule, you are eligible to claim your maternity rights as well as a range of benefits income. UK government, and your employer, provide pregnant mothers with extra help and support.

MATERNITY PAY: UK Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave is for those who take time off work to have a baby. It means you may be eligible for several entitlements including:

Statutory Maternity Pay is a weekly payment made before the birth and afterwards. SMP is payable for 39 weeks to those who qualify.

Statutory Maternity Leave is another entitlement which aims to help employed pregnant women. But, you must follow certain steps before you start taking Statutory Maternity Leave.

This section explains the rules to help you claim your paid leave and how to go about changing your dates. The online system also helps you calculate your maternity pay and leave entitlement.

Note: Check to see if you can you get ShPP. Those who qualify might also get Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

Employment Rights While on Maternity Leave

Taking Statutory Maternity Leave does not affect employee rights while on maternity leave. You still keep your right to pay rises, holiday entitlement, and a return to your usual workplace.

Statutory Maternity Leave (SML)

How long is Statutory Maternity Leave? Employees who qualify can take up to 52 weeks off work. Thus, one year of maternity leave contains two separate components.

  1. The first 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML).
  2. The final 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave (AML).

Taking all 52 weeks of maternity leave is not compulsory. But, you must take at least two (2) weeks off work following the birth of your child (4 weeks for factory workers).

Note: In some cases, Shared Parental Leave can replace part of maternity leave entitlement.

Maternity Leave Start Date

There is a ruling for the earliest date you can take maternity leave. A maternity leave start date can only begin 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Generally, maternity leave entitlement begins:

Note: The government maternity planner helps you work out the two sets of leave dates. You can also use it to calculate your earliest start date.

Changing Your Return Date for Work

What if you want to change your return to work date? In this case, you must provide your employer with at least eight (8) weeks of advance notice.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

Qualifying claimants can get the UK Statutory Maternity Pay entitlement for 39 weeks. You will receive:

Normal employment rules apply to Statutory Maternity Pay. SMP payments are weekly or monthly the same as regular wages. Your employer deducts Income Tax and National Insurance contributions in the usual way.

Those who take Shared Parental Leave get the Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). The current amount for ShPP is £140.98 a week. It could be 90% of your average weekly earnings if that is a lower amount.

SMP Start Date

As a rule, Statutory Maternity Pay begins when you start your maternity leave. SMP is an automatic process in some cases (e.g. if a pregnancy-related illness keeps you away from work 4 weeks before the expected birth).

Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave: Problems and Disputes

Always discuss SMP problems or disputes with your employer. Contact the HM Revenue and Customs enquiry line if something is wrong or you are unable to solve any issues. They can also help if your employer is unable to pay, or you disagree with the amount you receive.

Statutory Maternity Leave Eligibility Criteria

There are two basic requirements to qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave:

  1. Your employment status means you work as an employee (not an agency or contract worker).
  2. You provide your employer with the correct statutory notice when you claim.

Statutory Maternity Leave is not dependent on the length of service with an employer. Likewise, the number of hours you work, or your salary, do not affect your claim for maternity leave.

Having a child through surrogacy means you cannot get Statutory Maternity Leave. In this case, you might qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay instead.

Statutory Maternity Pay Eligibility Criteria

There are four basic requirements to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. You must:

  1. Earn an average of £113 each week.
  2. Provide your employer with the correct statutory notice when you claim.
  3. Be able to prove you are pregnant.
  4. Have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks in continuous employment. This must continue into the 'qualifying week'.

Note: The qualifying week is week number 15 before the expected week of the birth.

You do not qualify for SMP if you end up in police custody during the period of your maternity pay. Likewise, it does not restart if you get discharged from custody.

SMP Baby Born Early (or you lose the baby)

You still qualify to receive Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave employment even in cases where:

Note: A 'Rainbow Baby' refers to one that is born following a miscarriage, neonatal death, stillbirth, or infant loss.

What If You Do Not Qualify for SMP?

Your employer must provide you with the online form SMP1 if you do not qualify for SMP. You should get this form within 7 days of the decision about your claim.

The SMP1 form explains why you cannot get the money. In this case you may qualify to claim Maternity Allowance instead.

How to Claim Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave

Claiming Statutory Maternity Leave

You need to give your employer several pieces of information at least 15 weeks before your due date. Your employer needs to know the expected birth date of the baby. You must also provide the planned start date for your maternity leave.

In some cases your employer will ask you to give this information in writing. Even so, within 28 days, your employer must write to you and confirm your start and end dates.

Note: The government maternity planner helps you work out the two sets of leave dates. You can also use it to calculate your earliest start date.

Claiming Statutory Maternity Pay

There are several steps you should follow before you can make a claim for SMP.

  1. Inform your employer that you are having a baby and you want to stop work for a while.
  2. Provide your employer with the date you plan to start your Statutory Maternity Pay.
  3. Give at least 28 days of notice (written if requested) and some proof that you are pregnant.

Within 28 days, your employer must confirm how much SMP you will receive, when it starts, and when it will stop.

Your employer must provide you with form SMP1 within 7 days if you are ineligible to claim. You should also get an explanation why you cannot claim Statutory Maternity Pay.

How to Prove You are Pregnant

Proof of the pregnancy is a requirement for claiming Statutory Maternity Pay. But, proving your pregnancy to your employer is not required to get maternity leave. As a rule, your employer needs proof of your pregnancy within 21 days of your SMP start date.

In some cases this date may be different if the baby is born early. Either way, provide your employer with either:

  1. A letter of proof from your doctor or midwife.
  2. Your MATB1 certificate (given by doctors and midwives from 20 weeks before the due date).

Note: You must give your employer written proof that the baby is due to get Statutory Maternity Pay.

Maternity Pay and Leave: Extra Help and Information

Maternity Benefits

The government benefits calculator is a useful tool to work out what help is available from:

Note: Those who are not eligible to get SMP may qualify for the government Maternity Allowance.

Company Maternity Scheme

Employers must offer all pregnant employees the statutory amount of leave and pay. Some employers operate company maternity schemes. This means you may get an extra amount of pay and leave.

Extra Maternity Leave Entitlement

Claimants may also qualify for the Unpaid Parental Leave entitlement. There are some restrictions (4 weeks per year) but you could get up to 18 weeks parental leave.

Maternity Pay and Leave Entitlement for Parents in the United Kingdom