Having a baby is a beautiful thing, but it comes with a lot of things to worry about. Here’s one that will ease your mind a little bit: your maternity pay!
Keep reading to find out all you need to know about your maternity leave and the Statutory Maternity Pay – an aid form the UK Government to all the expenses the baby brings with him.
What is the Statutory Maternity Pay?
Statutory Maternity Pay is the amount of money the government will pay you while you’re on your first 39 weeks of maternity leave (as you will see below, it can extend up to 52 weeks). You will receive it monthly or weekly, same as you usually receive your salary, and all the taxes and National Insurance will be deducted from it as well. You will receive the following:
- During the first 6 weeks, 90% of the amount you earn
- During the following 33 weeks, still 90% of your salary or £136.58, whichever amount is lower.
When will I start receiving my Statutory Maternity Pay?
Usually, you will start receiving your maternity pay at the same time you start your leave, unless you start the latter earlier. You will start receiving your Statutory Maternity Pay earlier as well if you stop working 4 weeks before your due date because of a disease related to your pregnancy.
Do I qualify to get the Statutory Maternity Pay?
In order to be eligible for the Statutory Maternity Pay, you need to fulfil the following conditions:
- You need to have worked at least during 26 consecutive weeks before the week you’re qualified (15 weeks before your due date).
- You have to proof that you’re pregnant (Yes, for real! Apparently, your big belly isn’t enough proof!). Obviously, any document signed by your doctor or midwife will do.
- You need to earn at least £112 per week.
- You need to give at least 28 days notice (before starting your Statutory Maternity Leave).
What can I do if I don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay?
Your employer will have to confirm during the following 28 days after you give notice if you’re eligible or not to get your Statutory Maternity Pay. If they decide that you don’t qualify, they have to give you your SMP1 (the form you previously filled in) within 7 days after communicating their decision. First of all, you have the right to know why they decided you’re not eligible, so ask for an explanation if you’re not offered one.
If your employer is denying you the Statutory Maternity Pay without reason or is not respecting the deadlines, you have options: make a formal complaint, or talk to your trade union representative. If any of this works, you can ask for advise in HM Revenue & Customs: call 0845 302 1479.
If you do not qualify, you may be eligible to receive a maternity allowance.
How long can my leave be?
The Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks, divided in two equal parts of 26 weeks, the Ordinary Maternity Leave and the Additional Maternity Leave. You don’t need to take the 52 weeks off if you don’t want to – you may profit from just the ordinary leave if that’s what you want, but you’re entitled to have all 52 weeks.
Do I qualify to get the Statutory Maternity Leave?
The amount of time you’ve been working for your employer and your salary have no say here. You qualify if:
- Your job status is of “employer”, not “worker”
- You give notice to your employer in time (15 weeks before your due date)
What will happen with my job?
Nothing at all! The Statutory Maternity Leave is your right as a mother, and during your leave, taking care of your baby will be your job, your “salary” being your Statutory Maternity Pay. Your job will be there after your absence – take legal action if it’s not!
When can I start my maternity leave?
Typically, it will start the day after your baby’s born, but you can start it up to 11 weeks before your due date. It automatically start 4 weeks before the birth of the baby if you need to stop going to work for a cause related to your pregnancy.
Ok – I got it. What do I have to do now?
First of all, talk to your employer to find out if you’re eligible for the Statutory Maternity Pay. You have to do it at least 15 weeks before your due date, and they can ask you to do it in writing. Remember to give your employer proof that you’re pregnant (a letter from your midwife or doctor or your MATB1 certificate) at least 21 days before the start of your Statutory Maternity Pay. If your baby is born earlier than expected and you were planning on starting your maternity leave after his birth, make sure you handle in these documents as soon as possible.
Make sure you do everything by the book to get everything you’re entitled to get – both in terms of leave and money!
What if I don’t want my maternity leave?
Your maternity leave, same as your maternity pay, is designed to be of help, which means it is not compulsory and you don’t have to take it if you don’t want it. However, if this is your case, think carefully about this decision. The first few months with your baby are very important to bond with him and all the time you can get with him is precious for the both of you. In the UK, the situation mummies can enjoy is pretty great compared to other countries. If the reason for you to refuse it is because you feel insecure about what will happen to your job, do not worry: the law is on your side. As a working mother, you are protected by the government and entitle to enjoy your maternity leave to the fullest. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!
Nonetheless, you are of course free to do whatever works best for you. If you don’t want your leave, you don’t need to accept it, but you will need to get at least two weeks off work after your baby’s born, four if you work in a factory.
And what is Shared Parental Leave?
Shared Parental Leave puts daddy into the mix as well! You can choose to share your maternity leave, either taking some time so both of you can be with the baby, deciding that daddy will take after mummy after the first 26 weeks or a combination of both. It’s not a replacement for maternity leave nor Statutory Maternity Pay, just another option so you and your partner can find whatever suits you best!
Is there any extra help I can ask?
Yes! Depending on your situation, you may be entitled to Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit (forms of Family Tax Credit). You could also get an extra £500 as a Sure Start Maternity Grant (usually given if you’re a first-time mummy). Besides, find out if your company has any other benefits for mothers.
If you’re having problems with your employer, have doubts or need extra information, there’s plenty of people you can talk to about your maternity pay and your maternity leave. Go into the UK Government site or to your local Jobcentre, or ask in Maternity Action so you don’t miss any of your maternity rights.