Maternity Pay

Published on Sunday 9 June 2019
  • All pregnant employees are entitled to take paid time off work during normal working hours to receive ante-natal care.
  • All pregnant employees are entitled to take 52 weeks’ maternity leave, irrespective of their length of service.
  • The earliest that leave can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth, unless the baby is born early.
  • Employees must tell their employers at least 15 weeks before the baby is expected the date the baby is due and when they want to start their maternity leave.
  • Employees must take at least 2 weeks off after the birth (or 4 weeks if they are a factory worker).
  • Statutory Maternity Pay is paid in the same way as wages, e.g. on the normal payday, deducting Tax and National Insurance
  • All female employees have the right not to suffer any detriment on the grounds of pregnancy, childbirth or for taking maternity leave.

How much is Statutory Maternity Pay?

2019-2020 Rates

Weekly Rate:
First 6 weeks: 90% of average weekly earnings
Next 33 weeks: lesser of 90% of average weekly earnings and the standard fixed weekly rate of £148.68

Lower Earnings Limit: £118.00

The Average Weekly Earnings figure on which the entitlement and amount of SMP is based will need to be recalculated if an employee receives a pay increase at any time between the eight weeks prior to the Qualifying Week* and the end of her maternity leave.  This may result in adjustment of the SMP payments due, including any arrears.

* The Qualifying Week is used to determine the employee’s right to any statutory entitlements.  This is the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth as set out on MATB1 form.

How is eligibility for Statutory Maternity Pay determined?

To quality for SMP an employee must:

  • Have worked for their employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of child birth (Qualifying Week).
  • Have Average Weekly Earnings at least equal to the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance Contributions (see above).
  • Provide a MATB1 form to confirm the pregnancy and sufficient notice of when they would like SMP payments to start (minimum 28 days).

If the employment ends during or after the Qualifying Week, the employee can still qualify for SMP from the former employer.

What happens if the employee is not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay?

The employer should complete form SMP1 and pass this to the employee together with the MATB1 form, if available.  The employee may qualify for Maternity Allowance which can be claimed from Jobcentre Plus.

How does the employee notify their employer?

  • The employee should give their employer proof of pregnancy within 21 days of the SMP start date. A MATB1 form is often used for this purpose, which is issued by midwives and doctors approximately 20 weeks before the expected date of childbirth.
  • Employees must confirm to their employer the date the baby is due and when they want to start their maternity leave at least 15 weeks before the baby is expected. This date can change with 28 days’ notice.
  • On receipt of notification, the employer has 28 days to write to confirm the start and end date.

What happens during sickness absence?

  • Normal contractual and Statutory Sick Pay rules apply to pregnant employees prior to maternity leave, including notification procedures. The employer must ensure that it does not treat a pregnant employee unfavourably because of pregnancy-related sickness absence.
  • If an employee is absent due to a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before her expected week of childbirth, her maternity leave will commence automatically.

Is a Health and safety risk assessment required?

A risk assessment should be carried out as soon as the employer is notified of pregnancy and reviewed regularly, and following any absence due to sickness when additional steps may need to be taken to help, eg. altering working hours and/or breaks, or offering alternative work if practicable.

What happens to contractual benefits during the time of leave?

Maternity leave is split into two parts:

  • Ordinary Maternity leave (OML) – first 26 weeks
  • Additional Maternity leave (AML) – second 26 weeks

When on maternity leave (both OML and AML), employees remain entitled to all contractual benefits (such as a company vehicle, mobile phone and annual leave). This includes benefits that are given under a salary sacrifice arrangement, such as childcare vouchers.

What happens to Pension Contributions?

  • Employers are required to continue to make pension contributions based on the employee’s normal salary for any period of paid maternity leave (this covers the first 39 weeks of SMP plus any further period which includes any enhanced contractual maternity pay).
  • The employee is only required to pay employee contributions on the amount of contractual or statutory pay she actually receives.

How do Keeping in Touch Days work?

KIT Days should be agreed by mutual consent and employees do not have a right to KIT days without the express agreement of their employer.

  • A maximum of 10 KIT days can be taken at any time during the maternity leave period, excluding the first two compulsory maternity leave weeks.
  • Any work done as a KIT day, even as little as half an hour, will be counted as a whole KIT day.
  • KIT days can be taken as single days; in blocks of two or more days; or can be taken consecutively.
  • Both parties should agree what payment will be made to the employee for the work performed on KIT days. The minimum amount to be paid any week during the maternity pay period is the SMP rate the woman is entitled to. The employer can offset the lower rate SMP amount of any contractual pay towards its SMP liabilities.
  • Once an employee has used up her 10 KIT days, she will lose a week’s SMP for a week in the maternity pay period in which she does any work.

What happens when the employee wants to return to work?

  • An employee returning to work after Ordinary Maternity Leave has the right to return to the same job. The right to return following Additional Maternity Leave is to the same job unless this is not reasonably practicable, but any alternative job must be both suitable and appropriate.
  • An employee who wishes to return to work earlier or later than her expected return date should make a written request to do so, giving at least eight weeks’ notice of the proposed date of return.

For more detailed guidance in respect of Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay, please refer to