Employees that are pregnant are eligible to take up to 26 weeks of statutory maternity leave (known as ordinary maternity leave) plus an additional 26 weeks (known as additional maternity leave). This means that an employee can take up to a full year off once they give their employers the correct notice. All women employees are entitled to both classes of maternity leave from day one of their employment. It doesn’t matter how many hours they work or how long they have worked for their employer. The employer must be given the correct notice.
There are additional criteria that must be fulfilled in order for an employee to receive statutory maternity pay (SMP). SMP is a weekly payment from your employer made over a 39-week period.
SMP is payable at
- 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings (AWE) for the first 6 weeks with no upper limit;
- £145.18 (for 2018-19) or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower) for the remaining 33 weeks.
The SMP is available to employees if:
- They are on the payroll in the 'qualifying week' - the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
- Provide the correct notice period to their employer.
- Provide proof they are pregnant.
- They have been working continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks up to any day in the qualifying week.
- They earned at least £116 a week (gross) in the 'relevant period'. The relevant period is usually the 8-week period preceding the 15th week before the baby is due, known as the qualifying week.
The maternity allowance is a financial benefit for pregnant women who are self-employed, who are working but do not qualify for SMP or who have recently stopped working. Your employer can also offer further additional benefits which includes higher maternity payments, however this is at their discretion and not legally required.