Statutory Maternity Pay

Receive maternity pay upto £156.66 or 90% of the average weekly earnings (whichever is the lower amount) for the following 33 weeks. Know your eligibility.
  • Author: Siva
  • Last updated: July 22, 2022
  • 5 Minutes
statutory maternity pay in the UK explained by Papershift

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is a godsend to new mothers and can help ease the financial burden of having a child. 

But what exactly is SMP and how do you claim it? Read on to find out.

What is Statutory Maternity Pay?

Statutory Maternity Pay is paid to new mothers for up to 39 weeks. This is to allow the parent to look after their new child and is designed to give them time to bond and recover from the trauma of birth. 

How much is Statutory Maternity Pay?
New mothers are entitled to 90 per cent of their average weekly pre-tax earnings for the first six weeks. After that they are entitled to £156.66 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is the lower amount) for the following 33 weeks.

Do I pay tax and National Insurance on Statutory Maternity Pay?

We’re sorry to say, you’ll have pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) tax and National Insurance deducted from your Statutory Maternity Pay as it counts as earnings.

Who pays Statutory Maternity Pay? Is it the Government or my Employer?

Who pays Statutory Maternity Pay depends on the size of the business. In the first instance, the employer will pay Statutory Maternity Pay to an employer. An employer, however, can claim potentially all, or most, of this money back from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) depending on their class one National Insurance contributions. 

For more details, check out the Governments website.

How much Statutory Maternity Pay is recoverable by an employer?

If a UK business has paid less than £45,000 in class one National Insurance contributions over the last tax year, then the full Statutory Maternity Pay can be claimed plus an extra 3% on top. 

Larger employers who have paid more National Insurance can claim back 92% of SMP.

When will I start receiving Statutory Maternity Pay?

Usually, you won’t receive Statutory Maternity Pay before the 11th week prior to your birth due date if you’re pregnant.

What if my baby is born early?

If your baby is born early, you’ll start getting Statutory Maternity Pay from the day after the birth. You will also receive it if you’ve finished work because of a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before your due date.

How do I know if I am I entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay?

In order to qualify for SMP, you must:

  1. Earn at least £120 per week.
  2. Give notice of your pregnancy and intention to take maternity leave to your employer at least 15 weeks before your due date.
  3. Provide proof that you are pregnant. This is usually done in the form of a letter from your doctor or midwife or using an MATB1 form.
  4. Have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the ‘qualifying week’. The qualifying week is the 15th week before the expected week of the child’s birth.

How is Statutory Maternity Pay Calculated?

If you are paid weekly, then it’s calculated on your average weekly earnings in the last payday before the end of the qualifying week and the previous seven paydays.

If you’re paid monthly, then the calculation period is generally your average weekly earnings in the last two monthly pay days before the end of the qualifying week. 

What if I receive overtime, bonusses, or commission?

If you receive additional payments in your wage slip, the Statutory Maternity Pay calculations will include them. 

What if my earnings in the build up to the qualifying week are low?

If your earnings happen to be lower than usual during the Statutory Maternity Pay calculation period, then there is nothing unfortunately that you can do about it.

The rules are very strict, and your employer will only pay you 90% of your wage during the calculation period regardless of whether it is a true reflection of your pay. 

Can an employer pay more than the Statutory Maternity Pay rate?

Yes, they can. You will need to check your contract of employment to see what your company offers. Just remember that legally they cannot pay you less. If they do offer an enhanced rate of pay it will be called Contractual Maternity Pay. 

They might also offer something called Maternity Allowance which is available to those who don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. If your employer doesn’t offer this directly then you may still be able to get it directly from the Government.

Can an employer ask me to repay Statutory Maternity Pay if I don’t go back to work?

This is a tricky one to answer. Your employer cannot ask you to repay Statutory Maternity Pay if it is paid at the legally designated minimum rate.

They can ask you to pay any extra money they have paid due to their own policies, but this will need to be detailed in the company policies to be legal. Check the fine print of your contract of employment and any other relevant policies to see if have to repay anything if you don’t go back to work.

What if I run a small business and cannot afford to pay Statutory Maternity Pay?

Some small businesses may struggle to pay Statutory Maternity Pay whilst also having to pay other staff to replace the person on maternity leave. If this is the case, then they can apply to their local HMRC Accounts Office for advance funding. This can help smooth over any shortfall they may experience.

What if I lose my baby?

You can still claim Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance if your baby dies after the 24th week of pregnancy.

If the death occurs prior to this, it is considered a miscarriage and unfortunately you won’t be able to claim either.

What if I think I am receiving the wrong amount of Statutory Maternity Pay?

If you feel you’re not receiving the right amount of SMP or are having difficulties with your employer paying it to you, then your first step should be to write to your employer and make a formal complaint.

If this doesn’t resolve the issue, then you need to approach your local HMRC office so they can make a formal judgement on the situation. Your employer can be fined if HMRC decides in your favour. 

You can also approach an employment tribunal for unlawful deduction of wages if your company does not pay all or part of your Statutory Maternity Pay.

In conclusion

Having a child can be a joyous and stressful time but Statutory Maternity Pay is there to lessen the financial burden.

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Written by Siva

I write & describe the value & benefits delivered by Paperhift's rota planning, staff time tracking, and employee payroll management software. Especially useful for Shift Planners, Rota Managers, Team Admins, and HR Teams :-)