Maternity pay

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is a weekly payment that you make to your employees if they are eligible.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

Your employee will be entitled to SMP for up to 39 weeks if she has:

  • been employed continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the week her baby is due (called the ‘qualifying week’)
  • been paying tax and national insurance as an employee
  • been earning on average at least £112 a week
  • given at least 28 days’ notice
  • given proof of her pregnancy, which can be either a letter from her doctor or midwife, or a MAT B1 certificate.

This 39-week period is called the maternity pay period, or MPP.

The employee will get:

  • 90% of average weekly earnings for the first six weeks
  • £139.58 or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

Tax and national insurance are taken out as usual.

When can SMP be paid?

The earliest your employee can receive SMP is the 11th week before the week her baby is due, unless her baby is born prematurely. The week the baby is due is referred to as the expected week of childbirth, or EWC.

From this time, your employee can choose when she wants her SMP to start and this will normally be at the same time as the start of her Maternity Leave

She may tell you about when she wants to start SMP when she gives notice of her intention to start maternity leave but she doesn’t have to. However, she should give you at least 28 days’ notice.

Can my employee change her mind about this date?

Yes, she can change her mind but she should give you at least 28 days’ notice of a change of date. If this is not possible, she should give you notice as soon as is reasonably possible.

If your employee gives you less than 28 days’ notice and you believe that she could reasonably have given you notice earlier, you can refuse to pay SMP. However, it’s important to be as flexible as possible about notice as babies often don’t arrive in the week they are due.

What happens if there’s a problem?

If the baby is premature

If your employee gives birth before her due date but after she has begun her maternity leave, there is no change to SMP and it is paid as has been agreed.

If the baby is born before you have started to pay SMP but it is after the qualifying week, SMP payments start from the day after the birth.

If the baby is born before or during the qualifying week, she needs to provide the following evidence for SMP to be payable on the day after the birth:

  • written evidence, such as the birth certificate, to show that the reason she was absent was because of her baby’s birth
  • evidence of the date that the baby was due to be born, which can be Part B of the MAT B1 form completed by her doctor or midwife.

She should provide this evidence within three weeks where possible and, if this is not possible, you can agree to extend the time period to no more than 13 weeks.

In these circumstances, the period you use to calculate her average weekly earnings will be the eight weeks ending with the Saturday before the baby was born.

If the baby is born late

It’s not unusual for a baby to arrive late and if your employee has her baby later than the week it was due, SMP is not affected and the maternity pay period remains the same.

If the baby dies

If your employee’s baby is stillborn earlier than the 24th week of her pregnancy she will not be entitled to SMP.

If the baby is stillborn during or after the 24th week of pregnancy she will be entitled to SMP if all the other qualifying conditions are met. She will need to send you a notification for the registration of the stillbirth or a certificate of stillbirth.

If her baby dies after birth, she is still entitled to SMP. 

How much SMP do I need to pay?

If your employee is eligible for SMP, you must pay 90 percent of her average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, then a flat rate of SMP for the remaining 33 weeks. This flat rate is set by the government each year (In 2015/16 £139.58 or 90% of average earnings, whichever is lower).

You should be able to reclaim the majority of the SMP paid from your National Insurance contributions and other payments. You can find more information about SMP rates and how much of these you may be able to recover here. Click here to see the current rates.

Your employee’s right to SMP is not affected if you offer extra maternity benefits as part of your company policy. SMP should form part of any enhanced package.

If your employee is expecting twins or more, you still pay the same SMP as you would if she was having a single baby.

What if my employee has more than one contract?

If your employee also works for another employer, she may be entitled to SMP from both of you, as long as she provides medical evidence of her pregnancy.

She can only have one MAT B1 form, so if she has given this to another employer she may have to give you a letter from her doctor confirming her pregnancy and due date.

If she has more than one contract with you, and pays separate National Insurance contributions for each contract, she may be entitled to an SMP allowance for each contract.

What if she leaves her job permanently?

If your employee leaves her job after the start of the qualifying week, she is still entitled to continue receiving SMP. Once you start paying it, you must continue, even if she leaves the job or is made redundant.

If she leaves her job during the maternity pay period, or decides not to return to work after maternity leave, she doesn’t have to repay her SMP.

If you have paid her any extra maternity pay, she may have to pay some or all of this back if she leaves, depending on the terms of her contract.

Do I have keep paying SMP if she works during her MPP?

If your employee uses some or all of her KIT days during her MPP, she’s still entitled to SMP.

If she carries out any self-employed work during her MPP, she will still be entitled to SMP.

If she carries out work for another employer during her MPP but before her baby is born, her entitlement to SMP is not affected.

If she works for another employer after her baby is born but before the end of her MPP, her entitlement to SMP will stop if you are no longer employing her.

If you have paid her SMP while she has started employment for someone else and no longer works for you, she will have to return any SMP payment that covers the period of her new employment.