Maternity leave and benefits
When you have a baby prematurely your parental leave and benefits are as they would be if you had given birth at full term. If your baby needs special care you may be eligible for extra benefits.
What benefits am I entitled to?
What you will get will depend on your family circumstances and working situation.
If you were working before you had your baby
You will probably be entitled to either Statutory Maternity Pay (which is paid via your employer) or Maternity Allowance, which is paid by the state. These are paid for up to 39 weeks, and can start any time after 26 weeks, either before the birth or from the time of the birth. Otherwise you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or National Insurance credits.
If you have your baby early
In this case, you will still only receive the standard 39 weeks' payment. You will receive Statutory Maternity Pay from the day after your baby was born. However, you may be able to claim Income Support at any time during your pregnancy if you are unable to work because of the pregnancy.
Paternity rights and benefits
Find out what paternity leave, pay and benefits you're entitled to by visiting the Directgov website.
What happens if...
Your baby was born before you started your maternity leave
You need to tell your employer within three weeks, and your maternity pay will start on the day after the birth of your baby.
You had already gone on maternity leave when your baby was born
Your maternity pay will start from the beginning of your maternity leave, as planned.
Your employer says you are not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay
You can find full details of how to apply for Maternity Allowance at Directgov or contact your local Jobcentre Plus (see below). If this is your first baby and you are on a low income and receiving some benefits or tax credits, you may be entitled to a Sure Start Maternity Grant.
Your child needs more care than other children of a similar age
He may be entitled to Disability Living Allowance, and you may be eligible for Carer's Allowance.
Note: This information was correct at the time of going to press, but for information about claiming any benefits, visit the Directgov website or contact Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688.
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Published April 2012, next review April 2015