What rights do I have to maternity pay and leave?

Find out what rights you have to maternity pay and maternity leave from your employer.

Do I qualify for SMP?

You’ll receive statutory maternity pay (SMP) if:

  • you’ve been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks, at the end of the 15th week before the week your baby is due
  • your average weekly earnings are at least equal to the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions

You have a right to both 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave (OML) as well as 26 weeks of additional maternity leave (AML), making a total of 52 weeks.  

How much pay am I entitled to?

SMP is payable for 39 weeks. For the first six weeks it’s paid at 90% of your average weekly earnings. 

The following 33 weeks will be paid at the SMP rate, or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

The SMP rate the tax year 2016/17 is £139.58 per week. The standard rate for SMP is reviewed every April.

Some employers offer an ‘enhanced rate’ of maternity pay. This may only be offered after a certain period of employment, and may need to be repaid if you don’t return after maternity leave.

Top Tips

  • Ask your employer if they offer enhanced maternity pay and find out if there are repayment conditions
  • If you’re self-employed or haven’t been in your current job for long, find out if you’re eligible for maternity benefit at your local Benefits Office
  • Keep your form MAT B1 handy at all times – you can use it for free prescriptions and dental care, and look for places offering discounts to pregnant women

When can I take maternity leave?

To qualify for maternity leave, you must first tell your employer that you’re pregnant and the expected week your baby is due, showing them a medical certificate if they request one. 

You must do this by the end of the 15th week before the week your baby is due. At this point, you should also tell them the date you plan to start maternity leave. 

This can normally be any date from the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth and up to the birth. 

Your employer might ask you for:

  • notice in writing
  • a copy of the maternity certificate (form MAT B1) which you'll get from a doctor or midwife after you’ve been pregnant for 21 weeks

You can use our letter to give notice of your intention to take maternity leave

Once you’ve notified your employer, they must write to you within 28 days:

  • confirming your statutory maternity leave
  • giving you the date that your statutory maternity leave will end.

You must take two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave after your baby is born, or four if you work in a factory. 

Following that, you can choose when to end the maternity leave.

What if I don’t qualify for SMP?

To qualify for SMP you need to be classed as employed. If you don’t qualify for SMP you may be entitled to maternity allowance (MA), paid by the Benefits Agency, for up to 39 weeks.

To get this, you must have been employed or self-employed for 26 weeks out of the 66 weeks before the expected week of the birth of your baby.

You can get a claim form from your local Jobcentre Plus or Jobs and Benefits Office. 

What is Shared Parental Leave?

Shared Parental Leave (SPL) allows you to take blocks of leave separated by periods of work, rather than having to take all the leave in one go.

If both you and your partner are eligible, you will be able to share the leave between you.  

To find out more, read our guide on Shared Parental Leave.

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