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When you are pregnant, you may be entitled to four things:
- Maternity leave
- Maternity pay (or allowance)
- Paid time off for antenatal care
- Extra help from the government
How long can I take off for maternity leave?
Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks. It’s made up of:
- ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ – the first 26 weeks
- ‘Additional Maternity Leave’ – the last 26 weeks
You don’t have to take 52 weeks, but you must take 2 weeks’ leave after your baby is born (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory).
You may be entitled to take some of your leave as Shared Parental Leave.
What is Shared Parental Leave?
You and your partner may be able to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL). This allows you to share the time you take off work after your baby is born. You may also be entitled to Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). SPL and ShPP are not available in Northern Ireland.
What will I get paid on Maternity Leave?
The government will pay you statutory maternity pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks. You get:
- 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
- £145.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (e.g. monthly or weekly), with tax and National Insurance taken off as usual.
Do I qualify?
To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you need to:
- Earn on average at least £109 a week
- Give enough notice
- Prove you’re pregnant
- Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
What if I don’t qualify?
Your employer must give you the form SMP1 explaining why – and they need to let you know within seven days of making their decision. But there are options – you could get Maternity Allowance instead (see below).
How do I claim?
When you’ve had a good think about dates, tell your employer that you want to stop work to have a baby and the day you would like to start your SMP. You must give them at least 28 days’ notice (in writing if they ask for it) and proof you’re pregnant.
Then they need to confirm what you’ll get and when.
I need to prove I’m pregnant?
As if a growing bump and eating around the clock aren’t signs enough, you do need to prove your pregnant! So, 21 days before starting your SMP, you need to give your employer either:
- A letter from your doctor or midwife
- Your MATB1 certificate – doctors and midwives usually issue these 20 weeks before the due date.
If your employer has refused to pay SMP?
If you are not entitled to SMP but meet qualifying conditions based on your recent employment and earnings records you may be eligible to claim up to 39 weeks’ Maternity Allowance through your local Jobcentre Plus. MA is paid at the same weekly rate as the standard rate of SMP, throughout the MA period. This is in contrast to SMP which may be paid at a higher rate for the first six weeks.
To qualify for MA, you must have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks of the 66-week period up to the beginning of the expected week of childbirth.
You must also have been earning £30 per week or more over a 13-week period.
Is there an extra help from government?
If you are not able to claim either SMP or MA, you may be eligible for a Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG). You can’t normally get this grant if you already have children under 16, but there are exceptions to this. The SSMG is a one-off payment of £500 for families on low incomes and who are receiving certain benefits. The grant doesn’t need to be paid back and it doesn’t affect any other benefits or tax credits. You can claim SSMG at any time from the 29th week of pregnancy until your child is three months old.
What I need to do?
Ask your local Jobcentre Plus for claim pack SF100 Sure Start or download a copy from www.gov.uk/sure-start-maternity-grant. Your midwife will need to sign the form.
Free prescriptions and dental care
Did you know that NHS prescriptions and dental care (check-ups and treatment) are free to women while they are pregnant and for 12 months after giving birth? To benefit, ask your GP, midwife or health visitor for form FW8.
Once the baby is born you may also qualify for additional benefits. The type and amounts of benefits will depend on your family income. If you are still unclear about your entitlements or are considering your financial options when returning to work, please contact Outsourced ACC on 0208 247 6007, our team of financial advisers will be happy to provide a free consultation.