You can get Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if your employer or agency is responsible for deducting National Insurance from your wages and you meet two tests:
You are entitled to SMP even if you leave employment (for whatever reason), as long as you were still employed in the 15th week before your baby is due and you meet the other conditions. SMP is never repayable if you leave employment, so if you decide not to return to the same job after your maternity leave, you do not have to pay any SMP back.
SMP lasts 39 weeks. For the first six weeks, SMP is paid at 90 per cent of your average earnings in the calculation period. For the next 33 weeks, it is paid at the same 90 per cent or at the flat rate, whichever is lower.
Your employer is responsible for paying your SMP or giving you written reasons why you are not entitled. You do need to give notice to take your maternity pay. To get Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you must give your employer your MATB1 form at least 28 days before you wish to start your pay. In practice many women give notice in writing for maternity leave and pay together by the 15th week before the baby is due, so you should do this if at all possible.
If you are not entitled to SMP, you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance.
As well as SMP, your employer may pay you contractual/occupational maternity pay, which might have different conditions and may be closer to the amount of your normal wage. You should ask your employer about this. Your employer does not have to pay more than SMP unless you have a contractual right to extra maternity pay.
If you have more than one employer, you can get two lots of SMP if you meet the conditions. You can stop and start your SMP from different employers at different times if you wish.