Statutory Maternity Leave & Maternity Pay

This is the minimum that a pregnant employee is entitled to by law; some employees have employment contracts that are more generous.

All female employees are entitled to a minimum of 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave regardless of how long they have worked for an employer. The two years' continuous employment period is not needed.

Employees are also entitled to a period of Additional Maternity Leave. This starts at the end of the Ordinary Maternity Leave period and lasts for a further 26 weeks.

The maternity leave period is therefore 52 weeks in total (1 year).
It is for the employee to decide how much leave they wish to take, but a minimum of 2 weeks must be taken, (4 weeks if the employee works in a factory).

To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) the employee must meet the following conditions:

1. Be an employee.

2. They have stopped work due to the pregnancy.

3. The employee's weekly earnings are not below the current rate at which National Insurance Contributions must be paid - £123 per week. The employee must have been earning the lower earnings limit for national insurance at least eight weeks before the week preceding the 14 weeks they need to count to when their baby is due to be born.

4. It is 11 weeks before the expected week of the birth, or the employee gives birth before the start of the 11 week period.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for 39 weeks from when the employee goes on Ordinary Maternity Leave, but this must not be earlier than the 11th week before the baby is due and must not be later than one week before the baby is due.

The employee must give her employer notice of when they intend to go on leave no later than the 15th week before the baby is due. Or if they cannot give notice then the employee should give notice as soon as possible. The employer is entitled to ask for written notice, including a medical certificate to say that the employee is pregnant and the date they are due to give birth. An employer must notify the employee of the end date of her maternity leave within 28 days of receiving her notification.

The employee will be paid two different rates of SMP during Ordinary Maternity Leave.

1. For the first six weeks of leave, the employee is entitled to 9/10ths (90%) of their normal weekly pay. The normal weekly pay is worked out from what the employee received before Maternity Leave, (up to 12 weeks).

2. After the first six weeks, the employee is entitled to £184.03 per week or 90% of their weekly pay, (whichever is the lowest amount) for the rest of the Ordinary Maternity Leave (33 weeks).

3. If the SMP payment is, in fact, more than the employee's normal weekly pay, then the employee is only entitled to their weekly wage for the whole 39 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave.

SMP should be paid at the same time as the employee is normally paid, for example, weekly or monthly. The employer must also take off the normal deductions for tax and national insurance.

If an employee is not entitled to SMP but has a National Insurance record, they will qualify for up to 39 weeks Maternity Allowance at £184.03 as an employee or a lower amount for the self-employed.

An employee can also work for up to 10 days during maternity leave under the "stay in touch / keep in touch" provisions, without losing the right to maternity pay.

If the employee also has a contractual right to maternity pay, the employer does not have to pay both the contractual amount and SMP. However, the employer must pay the one that pays the most.

The employee is also entitled to any of the perks that she normally receives when at work. If an employee has private health care, they should check to see if pregnancy is covered by it.

If an employee wishes to return to work earlier than the end of her maternity leave, she must give the employer eight weeks notice of her change of dates. Employees may also have a right to parental leave, time off for dependents or the right to flexible working.

If an employee decides not to return to work at the end of the maternity leave she is still entitled to receive the full amount of her maternity leave and pay, but she must give the notice period set out in her contract, (or if none is set out in the contract the statutory notice period).
External links:

Parental Leave for employees

Employment Law