If you’re working, you will no doubt have been thinking about taking time off to look after your little bundle of joy as well as managing your finances adequately so that you can enjoy time off comfortably.
To make sure you can plan ahead, it is worth knowing exactly what your options are and what sort of money will be available. Mums often find they get into debt whilst on maternity leave and after it – so it’s always wise to plan your finances and budget well.
What you get will depend on your individual circumstances, such as whether you are employed or just started a new job.
Statutory maternity pay
If you are employed by the same company for at 26 weeks before the 15th week your baby is due and are earning on average more than £112 a week, then you are eligible for statutory maternity pay.
Statutory maternity pay is paid weekly by your employer for 39 weeks – the amounts accounts for 90% of your average weekly pay for the first six weeks of your leave and then its £139.58 a week for the next 33 weeks, or 90% of your earning if that’s less.
To claim you statutory maternity pay, you must tell your employer when you want your leave to start as well as provide medical evidence of your due date.
You don’t have to tell your employer you are pregnant until the 15th week before your baby is due, but there are obvious benefits in telling them sooner, such as being paid for time off you may need for antenatal care and protection from discrimination, for example. It can also help ensure you stay safe at work.
If you are not eligible for statutory maternity pay, then you may be able to claim maternity allowance.
You may be able do this is you are registered self-employed or do not qualify for statuary maternity pay from your employer.
Maternity allowance is paid by the government and you will get 90% of your average weekly earnings of up to a maximum of £139.58 a week.
The benefit is tax-free and you will also get national insurance credits during the time you are getting the benefit, which counts towards your state pension entitlement.
Maternity allowance is paid for 39 weeks and can start from 11 weeks before your baby is due.
If you are not eligible for the maternity allowance, this could be because you are not employed/self-employed or you are doing unpaid work for example, you may still be eligible for a payment of £27 a week, payable for 14 weeks. Your baby must be due on or after 27 July 2014 to qualify for this.
Claiming maternity allowance
To claim your maternity allowance, you will need to fill out claim form MA1 which you can download here or you can get a form from Jobcentre plus by calling 0800 055 6688.
If you are with an employer, make sure you also get the form SMP1 from them to send with your MA1 claim form.
You will also need to send a maternity certificate as evidence of your due date – this will be given to you by your doctor or midwife around 20 weeks before your baby is due.
If you are working, then you will have to send your original payslips as proof of earnings
If you’re self-employed and have been paying class 2 national insurance contributions, then HM Revenue & Customs will confirm your payments are up-to-date
If you are self-employed and not paying class 2 national insurance contributions, then send your small earnings exception certificate with your form.
What else you should know
You are required to tell the Jobcentre if you do any work whilst you are on maternity allowance benefits.
If you work for an employer or carry out some work as self-employed before your maternity allowance comes to an end, then you must tell the Jobcentre.
You can work for up to 10 days without losing any maternity allowance, but if you do more than that, your benefits will be cut for those days that you work.
If you give birth before the start of the 11th week before your due date or before your maternity allowance was due to kick in, then it will start from the day you give birth instead.
If you are employed and are forced to take time off work early, because of your pregnancy which is at least four weeks before your due date, then your maternity allowance will kick in from the day you are absent from work.
Maternity allowance is based on your earnings in the UK. If you haven’t worked in the UK for any significant time but have worked in the European Economic Area, or in a country which has a social security agreement with the UK, you may get some benefits.
You can find out about which countries fall into this area on the DWP website here.
What if you can’t get maternity allowance?
If you find that you are not entitled to any maternity allowance, then there are some other routes for you to pursue.
You may be entitled to employment and support allowance instead, if you’ve paid enough national insurance contributions recently.
You don’t need to send in another claim as the Jobcentre or benefits office will check your entitlement if your maternity allowance claim is not accepted.