Statutory Maternity Pay
Am I entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay?
To work out entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay you need to check (i) your length of service and (ii) if you have earned enough. An important date for Statutory Maternity Pay is the 15th week before the week the baby is due – this is called the qualifying week.
(i) Have you worked long enough?
Service condition: you have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week your baby is due (this means you started working for your employer before you became pregnant), and you are still employed by your employer in the 15th week before your baby is due.
(ii) Have I earned enough?
Earnings condition: you earned at least the lower earnings limit on average in the eight weeks in a row (if you are weekly paid) or two months in a row (if you are monthly paid) up to and including the week which is 15 weeks before the week your baby is due (“the calculation period”).
There is a calculator to help you on the government website.
What if I left my work?
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.
How long will I get SMP and how much will I get?
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.
What do I need to do to get my SMP?
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. There is a sample letter you can use.
What if I work for two employers?
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 maternity leave and SMP from different employers at different times if you wish. Click here for more information.
If you are not entitled to SMP, you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance.
What about Occupational Maternity Pay?
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.
I am an agency worker, do I get maternity pay?
If you are an agency worker, you qualify for statutory payments in the normal way. You can check the rules for entitlement to SMP. You should also check that you are definitely an agency worker, as some people may actually be employees.
There are also some specific rules which may help you to qualify. If you were absent from work because your agency is unable to find you work in a particular week, but you returned to work for them later, that week still counts towards your 26 weeks of continuous employment. So do weeks when you were not available for work because of sickness or injury.
If your employer offers you work for no more than 26 weeks at a time, at least twice a year, and usually offers the work to people who have worked for them recently (for example, if you are a supply teacher), then even if you do not return to work after a period of sickness or time off due to pregnancy, that period may still count towards your 26 weeks of employment.
Can I continue to receive SMP if I go back to work?
If you go back to work to your old employer or if you start working for a new employer after the birth, your SMP entitlement ceases immediately and irrevocably, from the beginning of the week in which you starts such work. There are strict rules on work during maternity leave that you need to check.
What can I claim if I am not entitled to SMP?
Do check the rules as you may entitled to Maternity Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.