Statutory Maternity Pay
Statutory Maternity Pay is a weekly payment from your employer which helps to cover your expenses whilst absent from work due to having a baby. However, not everybody is entitled to this payment and there are certain terms and conditions attached to it.
Who is eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay?
To be eligible for statutory maternity pay in the first instance you must have been employed by the same company for at least 26 weeks (approximately 6-6.5 months) by the time you reach the 15th week before your expected due date.
The week immediately preceding these 15 weeks before your baby is due, is known as the 'qualifying week' and you will need to work at least one day within this qualifying week to receive statutory maternity pay.
Some employees are subject to different eligibility criteria depending on the type of employment they are engaged in. If you work for an agency rather than a fixed employer and have been employed by the agency for at least 26 weeks as above, you will still be entitled to statutory maternity pay even if you have not worked continuously throughout those 26 weeks. Even if you worked one or two days within a week, this will be counted as one full week.
If you have two jobs, you could be entitled to statutory maternity pay from both employers, providing you have worked for both of them for the required amount of time.
In addition to the 26 weeks 'continuous employment' rule, the second condition that an employee must meet in order to be entitled to statutory maternity pay is the 'earnings rule'. At the moment, you must earn at least £111 a week (approximately £444 a month) to be eligible for the payment (Source: www.gov.uk).
Your earnings are worked out as an average and are calculated from your Gross pay (before any deductions such as tax or national insurance are taken).
How much is Statutory Maternity Pay?
The standard rate of maternity pay is £138.18.
First six weeks of the 39 week maximum
90% of your average gross weekly earnings.
Remaining 33 weeks
Either the standard rate (£138.18) or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings, whichever is lower.
Why may you not be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay?
Aside from not satisfying the conditions of either continuous employment or the earnings rule, you may not be able to claim statutory maternity pay if you:
- are unemployed
- are self-employed
- could not work within the qualifying week
- had your baby prematurely
- did not give your employer enough notice of pregnancy (i.e. before the start of the qualifying week)
- do not provide enough medical evidence of your expected week of childbirth
- work for an employer who is not liable to pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions
- are arrested or taken into legal custody during your maternity pay period
If you are not eligible for statutory maternity pay from your employer, or become ineligible due to one of the above reasons, you may still be entitled to a Maternity Allowance (MA) from the Department of Work and Pensions (Source: www.gov.uk, November 2014).
Maternity Allowance differs from Statutory Maternity Pay as it allows you to claim an allowance if you have worked for a minimum of 26 weeks within a 66 week period leading up to your baby's due date.
Expectant mothers who do not earn enough to qualify for statutory maternity pay (i.e. less than £111 a week) may instead be able to claim Maternity Allowance if they earn £30 a week (the minimum amount you must earn is set by the Maternity Allowance Threshold (MAT) which may change - check with the DWP for the most current MAT).
When can you expect to receive your Statutory Maternity Pay?
Statutory maternity pay will not be paid out more than 11 weeks before the week your baby is due, and this is only if you have stopped working by then. If you continue to work during these 11 weeks before your baby is due, then you can generally discuss with your employer when you wish for your pay to start. Once your statutory maternity pay has started, it will be paid out to you for up to 39 weeks (approximately 9 months). It's worth remembering that even if your baby arrives later than your expected due date, your maternity pay will still end 39 weeks after it was started and won't be extended!
What if your employer will not pay you Statutory Maternity Pay?
Your employer may have a good reason for not agreeing to pay you statutory maternity pay and should explain these reasons to you when asked. However, if you believe that you have satisfied all of the necessary conditions and that your employer's decision is wrong, you have several options:
Firstly, you need to ask your boss to put down their reasons in writing and then contact HM Revenue and Customs for advice. They will want to see these reasons and will probably ask you to provide evidence of your eligibility, along with any evidence your employer has which backs up their decision not to pay you.
Depending on the advice you receive from HMRC, you can then ask them to make a formal decision regarding your eligibility, bypassing your employer.
If HMRC decide in your favour, then your employer will have 30 days to lodge an appeal if they do not agree with the decision made. If their appeal is unsuccessful, they will need to start paying you by your next payday.
If HMRC decide in your employers favour, then you will also have 30 days to appeal the decision. Don't forget however, if your appeal is rejected you may still be able to claim Maternity Allowance, so it is worth looking into this also.
When your Statutory Maternity Pay has ended
Once the 39 weeks is up and you have received all of your statutory maternity pay, your options are to either return to work, take extended maternity leave or to suspend your return to work in favour of unemployment.
Your statutory maternity leave is not affected by either of the above and is not dependant on your returning to work. You are entitled to receive the pay and keep it, without having to pay it back should you decide not to go back to work after having your baby.