You are expecting your first baby? Congratulations! You have a lot of new and exciting adventures ahead of you. But at the same time you are also heading into the unknown – while you may have cooed over your friends babies and waved many colleagues off on maternity leave, actually going through these things for yourself can be daunting.
While you have your nose buried in every baby book you can get your hands on, one thing you might not be able to get your head around is maternity pay. But, it is important that you do, so you can budget based on your finances and not blow it all providing your baby with a wardrobe to rival yours, before it is even born.
What is Statutory Maternity Pay?
You are entitled to 90% of you average weekly pre-tax earnings for the first six weeks. After that you will receive £139.58 or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever is lower, for the following 33 weeks.
In total this will be paid to you for 39 weeks. But, you will have tax and national insurance deducted because this counts as earnings.
So, do you qualify?
Yes, if you…
- Have worked for your employer continuously – either full or part time – for at least 26 weeks up to 15 weeks before the expected due date.
- Earn an average of £112 per week.
- Give the correct notice period – which is a minimum of 28 days prior to when you want it to start. Your employer will then confirm within those days how much SMP you will receive and the start/finish dates of payments.
- Provide proof of pregnancy – this could just be a letter from your doctor or midwife.
What if you don’t qualify for SMP?
If you have read the above and are now panicking because you don’t qualify for it – don’t! If you are self-employed, an employee but haven’t been working for your employer long enough or your pay is less than £112 a week you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance. You can claim this as soon as you have been pregnant for 26 weeks and will receive it for 39 weeks. However, you won’t get this if you are unemployed, haven’t been working or earn less that £30 a week. Click here to find out more.
Company maternity schemes
Check your contract of employment to see what your company offers, they may pay more than the statutory allowance. Although be aware that they mustn’t pay less – which is why it is so important to know what you are entitled to.
If your company claims that they can’t pay SMP then they need to apply to the HMRC Accounts Office for advance funding.
When will you start receiving payment?
Usually payment will start 11 weeks before your baby is due – both for SMP and Maternity Allowance.
However, if your baby is born more than 11 weeks early, you will get your SMP dated from the day after the birth. You will also receive it if you have finished work due to a pregnancy related illness in the four weeks before your due date.
If the very worse should happen and you lose your baby after 24 weeks you can still claim SMP or Maternity Allowance.
What if you don’t qualify for SMP or Maternity Allowance
Don’t worry – you still have options! You may be able to get another benefit such as Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support, instead. However, this gets a lot more complicated and depends on several different factors. If you fit into this category you may want to speak to Citizens Advice so you can discuss your specific situation and requirements.
Image of pregnant woman courtesy of Shutterstock