Statutory Maternity Pay
To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you must have been employed for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks before the qualifying week, which is the 15th week before the baby’s due date.
You can receive SMP for up to 39 weeks, as long as you meet the conditions. If you have the right to it you will get it even if you decide to leave your job before you start receiving it. You do not have to repay it if you decide not to go back to work or leave your job whilst receiving SMP.
If you are employed you can choose when you want your SMP to start. This will normally coincide with your Ordinary Maternity Leave. Unless your baby is born sooner, the earliest SMP can start is 11 weeks before the week your baby is due, although you can continue to work until the day of childbirth if you wish to do so. You can change your leave dates at any time by giving your employer 28 days notice.
Your employer will pay you 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave then up to £138.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the remaining 33 weeks. You pay tax and National Insurance in the same way as on your regular wages. Your employer reclaims the majority of Statutory Maternity Pay from their National Insurance contributions and other payments. To qualify for SMP you must pay tax and national insurance as an employee (or would pay if you earned enough). All pregnant women are entitled to reasonable paid time off for ante-natal care.
Each employer will have their own policies on maternity leave, pay and your rights at work during pregnancy and whilst on maternity leave. At the very least your employer must offer the statutory minimum as set out in Government guidelines.
Rules that came into force on April 1st 2007 have extended the length of time new mothers can take off work and still get paid. A woman who is an employee can now benefit from up to 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave, making one year in total.
For up-to-date information about your maternity rights, the following websites can provide you with all the help and information you need: www.workingfamilies.org.uk