Statutory Maternity Pay: What you need to know

Understanding your maternity rights can leave you in a spin, here’s what you need to know about SMP

What is Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and how do I get it?

We give you the lowdown on what you need to know about SMP

Statutory maternity pay

What is Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)?

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid to mothers when they go on maternity leave. It is paid for up to 39 weeks. 

SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

Do I qualify for SMP?

If you are an employee or worker and your employer pays you through PAYE and deducts any tax or National Insurance you are entitled to SMP.

To qualify you must:

Have been employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before your expected week of childbirth. This means you need to have started the job before you got pregnant to get SMP.

You can still qualify for SMP if you resign or your job comes to an end at any time after the 15th week before your baby is due, as long as you were employed in all or part of the qualifying week and you meet the other qualifying conditions.

You are also entitled to SMP if you earn at least £118 per week (April 2019 – April 2020) before tax is deducted, up to the last pay day before the end of the 15th week before your baby is due.

If you do not meet these conditions for SMP, you may qualify for Maternity Allowance

How much SMP will I get?

SMP is paid for 39 weeks. SMP is paid at two rates: for the first six weeks you get 90% of your average pay. After that you get a flat rate of £156.66 per week for 33 weeks of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

When will I get SMP?

The earliest you can start your SMP is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. You can work right up until the date the baby is born, unless:
You have a pregnancy-related illness/absence in the last 4 weeks of your pregnancy or your baby is born before you started your maternity leave.

If you are off sick with a pregnancy-related illness in the last four weeks of pregnancy, your SMP will start on the day after your first day of absence from work.  

When should I tell my employer I want to resign as I am not planning to return to work after maternity leave?

It’s best to wait until your baby is born before making the decision as you may change your mind. It is advisable to give notice to start your maternity leave and pay then after you have had your baby you can decide when to resign from your job. 

You will be entitled to continue to receive your Statutory Maternity Pay (if you qualified for it) for the remaining 39 weeks and you will be entitled to your usual contractual benefits such as annual leave, up to the end of your notice period.

How should I give my notice for maternity leave and pay?

To ensure you get your maternity leave you must give your employer the following information in or before the 15th week before your baby is due (if your employer asks you to, you must put it in writing):

  • Confirm you are pregnant

  • Your expected week of childbirth

  • The date on which you intend to start your maternity leave

If you want to change the date you start your maternity leave, you must give your employer notice of the new date at least 28 days before the new date or the old date, whichever is the earliest.

To get SMP you must give your employer at least 28 days notice of the date you want to start your pay. You can give notice for leave and pay together in the 15th week before your baby is due.

To get SMP you MUST give your employer a copy of your maternity certificate (form MAT B1) stating your expected week of childbirth which your midwife or GP will give you when you are about 20 weeks pregnant.

Once you have given notice, your employer must write to you within 28 days and state the date you are expected to return from maternity leave.

If my job ends after the 15th week before my baby is due can I still receive SMP?

Yes, you can still get SMP as long as you are employed in the 15th week before your baby is due and you meet the normal qualifying conditions. 

If my employer does not pay SMP correctly what do I do?

If you are having problems with your SMP from your employer, you should write to your employer or make a formal complaint. If you and your employer do not agree, you can ask your local HM Revenue and Customs Officer to make a formal decision. 

If your employer cannot pay your SMP or your employer has gone into liquidation you should contact the Statutory Payments Disputes Team who will pay your SMP directly. 

You can also make a claim in an employment tribunal for unlawful deduction of wages if your employer does not pay all or part of your SMP. You must make a tribunal claim within 3 months. 

Can my SMP be paid in a lump sum as I am leaving?

Employers can pay SMP in a lump sum if they wish, instead of paying it in 39 weekly payments. However, the employer will usually have to pay more National Insurance if they pay SMP in a lump sum.

If you are claiming benefits, such as housing benefit, or you are going to be claiming benefits such as income support, Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, you should get specialist advice about the treatment of SMP as income or earnings if it has been paid in a lump sum.

If I am receiving SMP from my old employer am I able to start a new job?

Before the birth: you can work for a new employer and still receive SMP from your old employer before the birth.
After the birth: once your baby has been born you cannot get SMP from your old employer if you start work for a new employer, unless you were employed by the new employer in the 15th week before your baby was due. You must tell your old employer if you start a new job so that your employer can stop paying your SMP.

Saving money for all the things you’ll need and to help out whilst you’re on maternity leave can be daunting. Your budget may already feel stretched, but by making a few small adjustments to your daily life and everyday expense you can help you start saving money with minimal changes to your lifestyle.

Statutory Maternity Pay: What you need to know