Your complete guide to maternity pay

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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.

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…

In this article:

What is Statutory Maternity Pay?

Statutory Maternity Pay or 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 £148.68 or 90% 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.

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.

Find out more at

Am I entitled to SMP?

In order to qualify for SMP, you must:

  • Earn at least £120 a week

  • Give notice to your employer at least 15 weeks before your due date

  • Provide proof you are pregnant (usually in the form of a letter from your Doctor or Midwife or your MATB1 form)

  • 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.

If you've been on furlough during the Coronavirus pandemic, you should still be eligible for SMP.

How is SMP Calculated?

Get paid weekly? Then it’s calculated on your average weekly earnings in the last payday before the end of the Qualifying Week and the previous seven paydays.

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.

Click here to try the Government's maternity pay calculator.

Your company and SMP

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.) While most companies offer employees SMP, some offer other forms of maternity pay.

Some employers offer Contractual Maternity Pay instead of statutory maternity pay - your contract or company maternity policy should tell you if yours does. They might also offer Maternity Allowance. You might get this from the government if you can’t get statutory maternity pay from your employer.

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.

If your company goes into liquidation, you can approach the HMRC Statutory Payments Disputes yourself to claim your SMP – phone: 0191 225 5221.

You can find out more at Citizens Advice.

What if I lose my baby?

You can still claim SMP or Maternity Allowance.

Incorrect SMP?

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.

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