What is Statutory Maternity Pay? 

Statutory maternity pay is available to assist you in arranging time away from work prior to and following the birth of your child.

Maternity pay is aimed at employed workers paid through PAYE and can include individuals working either part-time or full-time and people working on a casual basis or for an agency.

You need to make a claim for statutory maternity pay by informing your employer and providing them with some evidence relating to your new arrival.

If you meet the requirements for statutory maternity pay (SMP) it is paid to you by your employer in the same way as your regular salary.

Understanding your eligibility for statutory maternity pay before trying to claim can save you valuable time and energy.

If you find that you’re not entitled to SMP it gives you the chance to explore other maternity pay options that may be available to you.

Self employed individuals don’t qualify for SMP but can be entitled to the maternity allowance instead.

Partners of individuals who are giving birth to their child or who are adopting may be eligibile to claim statutory paternity pay and leave.

Am I eligible for statutory maternity pay?

In order to be eligible for statutory maternity pay you need to fulfil the following criteria:

  • Maintain average weekly earnings of at least £123 before tax for the eight weeks leading up to the last payday before the 15th week before your baby is due.
  • Provide the necessary notice to take maternity leave and proof of your pregnancy to your employer.
  • Have been employed continuously by your employer for a minimum of 26 weeks leading up to the “qualifying week,” which is the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth.

It’s important to note that you are eligible to receive SMP even if you don’t intend to return to work or if your employment ends after the 15th week prior to your expected due date.

SMP wouldn’t normally have to be repaid in cases where you choose not resume work only in cases where you have overpaid for other reasons.

Partners aren’t entitled to maternity pay but can potentially claim paternity pay from their employer.

How much is statutory maternity pay?

Maternity pay is usually increased by the government from the start of each tax year (6 April) so you should expect the figures stated below to change over time.

From the start of the 24/25 tax year (5 April 2024) the SMP rates are:

  • Weekly rate for the first six weeks: 90% of your average weekly pay before tax is deducted.
  • Weekly rate for the next 33 weeks : 90% of your average weekly pay before tax or a flat rate of £184.03 whichever is lower.

Although your employer pays you maternity pay they can claim the full amount back from HMRC.

How do I calculate maternity pay?

Your employer will determine your average weekly earnings by calculating the mean of your total gross earnings during a minimum of eight weeks leading up to and including the final payday before the conclusion of your qualifying week.

The qualifying week is defined as the 15th week prior to the week in which your baby is expected to arrive.

The duration of this period may differ based on the frequency of your pay which could be weekly, monthly or at other intervals.

You can use the online government calculator to work out how much maternity pay you could be entitled to.

How do I claim statutory maternity pay?

To start your maternity pay claim you must inform your employer of your intention to take maternity leave and formally request it at least 15 weeks prior to your expected due date.

Your SMP generally starts when you begin your maternity leave.

You must give your employer a minimum notice period of 28 days prior to your desired start date for receiving SMP payments.

As part of the process you should also give your employer the following information:

  • Confirmation of your pregnancy with form MATB1 or a letter from your doctor or midwife.
  • The anticipated week of childbirth.
  • The intended start date for your maternity leave.

It’s best practice to document the above information in writing or via email to avoid any potential misunderstandings.

Your employer should confirm your maternity leave start and stop dates in writing.

If you decide not to return to work after your maternity leave you would only need to pay maternity pay back if you have been overpaid.

Do you pay tax on statutory maternity pay?

Statutory maternity pay is paid to you by your employer and they must deduct income tax and national insurance from your maternity pay in the same way as they would from your normal salary.

Your statutory maternity pay should show on your payslip along with all of your standard income and deduction figures so you can see how much tax and national insurance has been deducted by your employer.

What is occupational maternity pay?

Your employer has the option to offer you additional maternity pay on top of the statutory maternity pay.

Known as “occupational maternity pay” or enhanced maternity pay will typically supplement your SMP to provide you with full pay or half pay for a specific duration of weeks.

The details of occupational maternity pay is usually outlined in your contract of employment or a company-wide policy on parental leave.

What is shared parental maternity pay?

Shared parental leave offers parents a greater range of options when it comes to caring for their child.

Parents who meet the eligibility criteria have the opportunity to receive a maximum of 50 weeks of shared parental leave.

To qualify for shared parental leave (SPL) and statutory shared parental pay (ShPP), both parents must meet the following criteria:

  • Share responsibility for the child from the time of birth.
  • Meet the specific work and pay requirements, which vary depending on which parent intends to take advantage of shared parental leave and pay.

If you began sharing responsibility for the child after their birth, you are not eligible for SPL and ShPP.

More information on shared parental maternity pay, leave and eligibility can be found on .GOV.

What is maternity leave?

Statutory maternity leave lasts for a total of 52 weeks. This period is divided into two parts:

  1. Ordinary maternity leave which covers the first 26 weeks.
  2. Additional maternity leave which encompasses the remaining 26 weeks.

While you are not obligated to take the full 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave it is mandatory for most people to take at least 2 weeks of leave after the birth of your baby.

Returning to work after maternity leave

Before you commence your maternity leave, it is important to inform your employer of the duration you plan to be away from work and the anticipated date of your return.

If you wish to resume working prior to completing a full year of maternity leave it is essential to provide a minimum of 8 weeks’ advance notice for returning earlier than your previously expected return date.

Statutory maternity pay disputes

Your employer will assess the total amount you have been paid during a specific timeframe. They will calculate your average weekly earnings during this period to determine your eligibility for Statutory Maternity Pay and the appropriate payment amount.

If your employer fails to provide your statutory maternity pay or only pays a partial amount you can firstly contact your employer so they can investigate the matter and find an agreeable solution.

If you are unable to resolve the issue with your employer you can reach out to the HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes Team on 0300 322 9422 or visit their website.

It is recommended to contact HMRC within 6 months although they may exercise discretion and accept a late claim if there are valid reasons for the delay.

HMRC will then assess and make an official determination regarding your entitlement to SMP. If you are eligible, your employer must either appeal the decision within 30 days or make the payment.

In the event that your employer fails to comply HMRC will directly pay any outstanding SMP.

What is the maternity allowance?

The maternity allowance is different to statutory maternity pay but is essentially giving similar financial support for the same reasons.

Individuals who aren’t eligible for statutory maternity pay can qualify for the maternity allowance instead.

Our guide on the maternity allowance is here to let you know about the main features of the allowance, qualifying criteria and how to claim it.


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