Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid to you by your employer who can claim back the money from the Revenue. You are entitled to SMP even if you do not intend to return to work and you cannot be asked to repay it. SMP is 90% of your normal pay for six weeks followed by 33 weeks at a flat rate or 90% of your normal pay, whichever is the lower.
To be eligible for SMP, you must be either an employee or an employed earner (this is where you are paid with tax and national insurance deducted from your pay). You must meet two conditions, the service condition and the earnings condition.
To get SMP you need to have worked for your employer for 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before your baby is due. This roughly means that as long as you started the job before you became pregnant, and you have worked for at least a day or part of a day in each week since then, you will meet the service requirement. Not all breaks from employment will break your continuous service. Breaks where you were on annual leave, sick leave, parental leave, maternity leave or taking time off for dependents will not break your continuous service. If you leave your job or are dismissed after the 15th week before your baby is due, you will still be entitled to SMP.
To qualify for SMP you must also have earned at least the lower earning limit on average in the calculation period. If you are paid weekly, the calculation period is the eight weeks in a row, up to and including the 15th week before your baby is due. If you are paid monthly, the calculation period is usually based on the last two monthly payments received before the end of the 15th week before your baby is due. SMP is worked out on your gross pay, not what you take home.
To work out the average if you are paid monthly, add up the pay on the payslips, divide by the number of months covered (this will usually be two), multiply by 12 and divide that number by 52, to get a weekly average. Pay can include holiday pay, bonuses, overtime, sick pay and any previous periods of SMP but not Maternity Allowance.
To claim SMP give your employer notice, and your MATB1 form. Notice should be given at least 28 days before you want the SMP to start, but in practice it is usually easiest to give notice at the same time as giving notice of your maternity leave. Your employer will work out whether you qualify for it. If you do not qualify for SMP, your employer must give you form SMP1. If you think your employer has done the calculation wrongly, or if they haven’t come to a decision within four weeks of giving notice for SMP, you can ask the Revenue to intervene. You may be able to claim Maternity Allowance if you are not entitled to SMP.
Pay rises after the calculation period
If you are given a pay rise at any time between the beginning of your calculation period for SMP and the end of your maternity leave, even if it is not backdated, you are treated as having received it during the calculation period and your SMP should be recalculated so that you receive a backdated increase to your SMP.