Anyone planning or expecting a baby needs to think about their financials, and parents in the UK are getting one of the worst deals in Europe when it comes to maternity leave and pay, with only Slovakia being behind us. So what exactly are you entitled to?

Time off

If you are employed (including company directors) you have right to Statutory Maternity Leave of 52 weeks. You don’t need to take all 52 weeks, but you need to take 2 weeks following childbirth. You must tell your employer that you expect the baby at least 15 weeks before the due date, and give them notice that you want to start your maternity leave (you can change this with 28 days’ notice).You must give your employer 8 weeks’ notice before you want to return  to work.

Whilst on leave you still have rights to pay rises, accrue holiday and return to work, but also to “Keeping in Touch” days, where you can work up to 10 days during your maternity. This needs to be agreed with employer in advance.

To qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave you need to be an employee or director, and give your employer correct notice. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been employed for.


Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks you get 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax. For the remaining 33 weeks you get the lower of £145.18 per week or 90% of average weekly earnings. It is paid in the same way as your salary (weekly or monthly), and starts when you take your maternity leave. If you decide to take all the 52 weeks leave, the last 13 weeks will be unpaid.

To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay you must earn on average £116 a week, give your employer correct notice and proof that you are pregnant (letter from the doctor or MATB1 certificate from your midwife). You also must have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the ‘qualifying week’ – the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.

Maternity allowance

If you are employee but  don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, self-employed paying Class 2 National Insurance, or recently stopped working,  you might be eligible for Maternity Allowance for up to 39 weeks. To qualify for Maternity Allowance, in the 66 weeks before your baby is due you must have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks and earning £30 a week or more in at least 13 of those weeks.

If you are self-employed you must have paid Class 2 NIC for at least 13 weeks out of the 66 weeks before your due date, to get the full rate of £145.18 a week (or 90% of you average weekly earnings, whichever is less).  If you haven’t paid enough NIC you’ll get £27 a week, for 39 weeks.

Maternity allowance is paid every 2 or 4 weeks, and you can claim it once you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks.

To claim Maternity Allowance you’ll need to fill in MA1 claim form available on the HMRC website.

Ela Bagan from Plus Acccounting

Author: Ela Bagan, Accounts and Audit Assistant

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