We’ve donned our best Zara combat trousers to fight our way through the jungle of information out there – just so you don’t have to. And here are the need-to-know facts…
Frankly, there’s only so much that a woman’s ‘baby brain’ can cope with. And it’s most definitely not researching the ins and outs of statutory maternity pay (talk about a yawning chasm of boredom). Yes, it’s dull, but also very important information, so we’ve done the research and simplified it as much as possible for you.
Here’s a list of the 10 most important things you need to know - print it out and stick it to your fridge.
1. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
SMP is paid to you for up to 39 weeks. You’re entitled to 90 per cent of your average weekly pre-tax earnings for the first six weeks. After that it’s £139.58 or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings – whichever is the lower amount – for the following 33 weeks.
And, sorry to say, you’ll have pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) tax and National Insurance deducted from your SMP as it counts as earnings.
2. To qualify for SMP, you must:
• Have worked for your employer continuously (full or part time) for at least 26 weeks up to the 15 weeks before the expected week of birth. This is known as the Qualifying Week (QW).
• Earn an average of at least £112 per week.
• Give the correct notice period. Most people let their employers know this at the same time they announce their pregnancy, but the SMP notice period is a minimum of 28 days prior to when you want it to start. This is also the case if you change your mind about dates. Your employer must confirm within the 28 days how much SMP you will get and the start/finish dates of payments.
• Provide proof of pregnancy - this could be a letter from your doctor or midwife or your MATB1 certificate, which is usually issued by your doctor/midwife around 20 weeks before you’re due to give birth
3. Not eligible for SMP?
If this happens your employer (or all your employers if you have more than one) has to fill in form SMP1 within seven days explaining why. In this instance you could be eligible for a Maternity Allowance.
Your employer must confirm within 28 days how much SMP you will get
4. How SMP is calculated
Get paid weekly? Then it’s calculated on your average weekly earnings in the last pay day before the end of the Qualifying Week and the previous seven pay days.
If you’re paid monthly, then the calculation period is generally your average weekly earnings in the last two monthly pays received before the end of the Qualifying Week. So the SMP calculation can include overtime, commission, bonuses or anything else paid during the calculation period.
But if your earnings happen to be lower than usual during the SMP calculation period, unfortunately the rules are very strict and your employer can’t do anything to change this.
5. SMP starts when you take your maternity leave
Usually it’s not paid before the 11th week prior to your birth due date if you’re still pregnant.
But if your bub is born early before then, you’ll still get your SMP dated from the day after the birth.
You will also receive it if you’ve finished work because of a pregnancy related illness in the four weeks before your due date.
6. Company maternity schemes
Check your contract of employment to see what your company offers – they may pay you more than the statutory allowance. They cannot pay you less!
Also check the fine print to see if they state you have to repay anything if you don’t go back to work.
(NB: you would only ever have to give back the extra money the company gave you not the SMP percentage of your payments.)
7. If your company can’t pay SMP
This is a common worry. Some employers – especially small businesses – can struggle to find the fund to pay. If this is the case, then your boss needs to apply to the HMRC Accounts Office for advance funding.
8. If your company goes into liquidation
Then you can approach the HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes yourself to claim your SMP – phone: 0191 225 5221.
9. If you lose your baby after week 24
You can still claim SMP or Maternity Allowance.
10. Incorrect SMP payments?
If you feel you’re not receiving the right amount of money, or are having difficulties with your employer regarding this then the first step is to write to your employer/make a formal complaint.
If this doesn’t resolve the issue, then you need to approach your local HMRC office so they can make a formal judgement on it (you have to make this application within six months).
Your employer can be fined if HMRC decides in your favour. You can also approach an employment tribunal for unlawful deduction of wages if your company does not pay all or part of your SMP – this claim must be made within three months.