What is Maternity Allowance?
Maternity Allowance (MA) is a benefit for women who are working, or have worked recently, but who do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. If you qualify for it, Maternity Allowance is paid by Jobcentre Plus directly to you. You cannot get it as well as Statutory Maternity Pay.
How much is it?
- If you qualify on the basis of paid work: it is paid at either 90 % of average earnings or the flat rate (whichever is lower) for 39 weeks. See below for how to calculate your average earnings. For weeks when you are self-employed, your earnings from self-employment are assumed to be either £30 a week or £161.31 a week, depending on whether you’ve paid Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) for those weeks. If you have not paid Class 2 NICs you will get £27 a week, but if you have paid and you are not covered by a Small Earnings Exception Certificate, you will get £148.68 a week. You can add earnings from different jobs, and from employment and self-employment, together;
- As someone who does unpaid work for your spouse or civil partner: £27 per week for 14 weeks only.
There is a calculator to help you on the government website.
Who can claim Maternity Allowance?
There are two routes to qualify for Maternity Allowance. Most women will qualify under the first route, because of paid work (employed or self-employed). The second route is for women who work on an unpaid basis for their self-employed spouse or partner.
(i) To qualify for Maternity Allowance on the basis of paid work you must:
- Have worked or been employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks (15 months) before your baby is due.
The work does not have to be continuous, or for the same employer, and you can include periods of self employed work. If you are on maternity / annual / sick leave, this time still counts towards your 26 weeks’ worth of working when calculating eligiblity.
- And have earned more than £30 a week in 13 of those weeks.
The weeks do not have to be continuous or for the same employer, and you can add together earnings from more than one job. You should use the 13 weeks where you were paid the most. Pay can include holiday pay, bonuses, overtime, sick pay and any previous periods of Statutory Maternity Pay, but not periods of Maternity Allowance itself. To work out your average earnings add together all your earnings in the 13 weeks and divide by 13. You can include weeks where you have been self employed, as long as you either paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NICs) or you could have paid Class 2 NICs but did not do so.
Caution: Holding a Small Earnings Exception Certificate can dramatically reduce your MA entitlement. (see below for further details)
Earnings for weeks when you are self-employed will either be enough to give you flat rate MA (if you have paid Class 2 NICs) or £27 a week MA ( you could have paid Class 2 NICs but you did not do so). This means it is really important that you have registered with HMRC as self-employed. Because Class 2 National Insurance is now not paid until the end of the tax year, when you claim MA, you will be told if you need to pay Class 2 NICs early to get the maximum rate of MA, and how you can do so.
If you were employed in the 15th week before your baby is due, you will need form SMP1 from your employer which sets out why you don’t qualify for SMP. You can claim Maternity Allowance from Jobcentre Plus.
There is a calculator to help you on the government website.
(ii) To qualify for Maternity Allowance on the basis of unpaid work for your spouse or civil partner:
- You must not, for the same pregnancy, be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay or to Maternity Allowance on the basis of paid work.
- You must have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before your baby is due for your spouse or civil partner whilst s/he was self-employed
- Your spouse or civil partner must be liable to pay a Class 2 National Insurance contribution in respect of each of the 26 weeks you have worked.
MA on the basis of unpaid work for your spouse or civil partner is paid for 14 weeks at £27 a week.
What if I am a Self Employed Worker?
Self employed women do not have the right to SMP unless you are also an employee. Instead you will have to claim Maternity Allowance (MA). Check the rules to see whether you qualify. To qualify for this you must have been employed or self employed for any 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the week your baby is due. These weeks do not have to be in an unbroken block, and you could use some time where you were employed and some where you were self employed.
You also need to have 13 weeks where you have either:
- paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions, or
- you could have paid Class 2 NICs but did not do so, or
- had earnings from employed work.
If you hold a Small Earnings Exception Certificate, you will be treated as earning £30 a week for any week covered by the certificate. This applies even if you pay a class 2 NI contribution for a week which is also covered by the certificate. If all of the weeks in your 13 week earnings period are covered by a small earnings exception certificate you will only receive £27 a week in MA.
If you have been paying Class 2 NICs, you will be treated as having enough earnings to qualify for maximum MA. If you could have paid Class 2 NICs but did not do so, you will be treated as having earned £30 per week, and so will be entitled to £27 per week Maternity Allowance. Because Class 2 NI is now not normally paid until the end of the tax year, when you claim MA you will be told if you haven’t paid enough to get maximum MA, and given the option to pay early.
If you own a limited company and pay yourself a salary through PAYE from the company, you could qualify for SMP as an employee, provided you meet the usual test. Call the HMRC employer’s helpline on 08457 143 143.
How do I claim?
You can get the form (called MA1) from Jobcentre Plus or from Gov.uk. You will need to provide a certificate from your midwife giving the expected date of birth of your child (form MAT B1). If you are (or have recently been) employed but that your employer or ex-employer has decided you are not entitled to SMP, it should give you form SMP1 explaining why and you should send it to the DWP to support your claim.
When should I claim ?
The earliest you claim will be accepted is the 15th week before the expected date of birth of your child (i.e. until week 26 of your pregnancy) but you should claim as soon as possible after that. Do not wait for too long, you may be able to backdate your claim (for up to 3 months) under certain conditions but you risk losing out if you are late.
Payments can start 11 weeks before the baby is due, it is you who chooses when your maternity leave should start.