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Statutory Maternity and Paternity Leave

When you're employed and expecting a baby, you may have decided that you are going to spend some time at home with your baby. If eligible, you may have the right to certain benefits related to your leave and payment.

Statutory Maternity Leave:

Eligible employees are entitled to 52 weeks off work, however, employees only get maternity pay for 39 of them.

Maternity leave is made up of two different parts:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave: this is the first 26 weeks. If you return to work during this period, you have the right to return to exactly the same job that you had before you took maternity leave.

  • Additional Maternity Leave: this is the second 26 weeks and affects what rights you have when you go back to work. If you take more than six months’ leave, you have the right to return to the same job unless it’s no longer available. In this case, you must be given a similar job with the same pay and conditions.

The earliest that paid maternity leave can start is the 11th week before the baby is due. The latest is immediately after the childbirth and the leave must cover the first 2 weeks after giving birth.

The first 6 weeks of SMP are equal to 90% of average weekly earnings (there is no upper limit). The remaining 33 weeks are paid at the weekly standard rate SMP of £156.66 or 90% of the earnings if this is less than standard rate SMP.

To qualify for SMP you must:

  • earn on average at least £123 a week

  • give the correct notice and proof you’re pregnant

  • have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the ‘qualifying week’ - the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth

At least 15 weeks before your due date, tell your employer when the baby is due and when you want to start your maternity leave. Your employer can ask for this in writing.

Your employer must write to you within 28 days confirming your start and end dates.

Statutory Paternity Leave:

Paternity leave cannot start before the birth and must be taken in one go. It can be 1 or 2 weeks but must end within 56 days from the date of birth or due date.

The statutory weekly rate of Paternity Pay is £156.66, or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

To qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay, you must have worked for your employer for at least 26 continuous weeks before:

  • the 15th week before the baby is due

  • the end of the week the adoption agency matched you with a child.

You also must be earning at least £123 a week before tax and continue to work for your employer until the child is born (or placed with you).

Maternity Allowance:

If an employee doesn’t qualify for SMP or expecting mother works as self-employed, Maternity Allowance may be claimed. Those eligible can expect to receive between £27 to £156.66 a week for 39 weeks if self-employed or £156.66 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if less) when employed. Employee should receive a form SMP1 from employer explaining why the employee is not eligible for SMP.

Additional guidance for employers:

The company can offer more than the statutory amounts if there is a company maternity and paternity scheme. This is called Enhanced Maternity Pay. If your employer offer enhanced pay, this should be written in your contract.

The employer pays SMP/SPP in the same way as salary is paid. Tax and National Insurance contributions will be deducted from employee pay.

The company can usually reclaim from HMRC 92% of SMP/SPP or 103% if the business qualifies for Small Employers’ Relief. The company normally qualifies for small employers’ relief if it's liability for national insurance (NI) contributions was £45,000 or less in the last complete tax year prior to the employee’s qualifying week.

Working while on maternity leave:

The employee can maintain work duties during the maternity leave for a maximum of 10 days, these are known as "Keeping In Touch" days and are optional. KIT days entitle an employee to work for up to ten days during the leave without losing SMP. If the employee works for more than 10 days, the SMP will be automatically stopped.

If you have more than one job:

If the employee qualifies for SMP from one employer but does not meet the qualifying conditions for SMP from another employer, the employee cannot claim Maternity Allowance.

If the employee has two or more employers, the employee can claim SMP from each of them providing that employee satisfies the qualifying conditions for each job.

If the employee qualifies for SMP but also works as self-employed, the employee cannot receive both SMP and Maternity Allowance.


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