Leave & Absence

What is Maternity Pay?

By Andrew Willis
27 Apr 2018

Maternity Pay is an employee right. When an employee takes leave due to pregnancy she can qualify for Maternity Pay for up to 39 weeks, as long as she meets certain criteria. On 1 April 2018, Statutory Maternity Pay in the UK increased to £145.18 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings. With such a sudden and large increase, you might find yourself needing a refresher on what maternity pay is, and how it all works.

The History of Maternity Rights in the UK

In 1933, the government permitted women to take maternity leave in the UK; however, until the introduction of the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975, women had no protection from dismissal due to maternity leave. The Equality Act 2010 introduced legislation directly preventing discrimination, and unfair dismissal, due to pregnancy. However, this does not mean you can make an employee redundant while on maternity leave.

Maternity Leave Notice

An employee must tell you about their pregnancy by the 15th week before their baby is due to qualify for 52 weeks’ statutory maternity leave. This includes: Ordinary Maternity Leave—first 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave—last 26 weeks NB: Employees don't have to take the full 52 weeks. but must take at least 2 weeks' leave after the baby is born.

Employee Rights

Women can also receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). This is payable for 39 weeks, on the condition that the employee has been continuously in your employ for 26 weeks by the time they must inform you of the pregnancy. They must also have average earnings of at least £116 per week (from April 2018) in the eight weeks before the 15th week before the 'expected week of childbirth' (EWC). Employees who haven't worked for 26 weeks will have to claim maternity allowance. The value of the first six weeks of pay is 90% of an employee's average weekly earnings. You must pay the remaining 33 weeks at a value of £145.18 per week (or 90% of their average weekly earnings if that is lower). If you are unsure how to calculate maternity pay in the UK, use our free Maternity Pay Calculator.

Who Pays Maternity Pay in the UK?

You must pay Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) just like you would pay a salary. The employee will still receive deductions for tax and National Insurance from maternity payments. You can usually reclaim 92% of maternity payments from HMRC. If your business qualifies for Small Employer’s Relief, you might be able to reclaim 103%. If you pay less than £45,000 in class 1 National Insurance, you will qualify for Small Employer’s Relief.

Do Agency Workers Get Maternity Pay?

Agency workers can get maternity pay if they meet the same qualifying conditions. The agency worker must prove they were in continuous employment or in engagement with the agency, for the 26 weeks by the 15th week before the EWC to meet the conditions of ‘continuous employment.’ Taking annual leave or sickness absence does not break continuous employment.

Speak to an Expert

If you have any issues involving maternity pay or any questions regarding SMP, contact our employment law experts today on 0808 145 3382.

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.





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