If you are having a baby, you are entitled to a year of Statutory Maternity Leave - no matter how long you’ve been in your job plus you may be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay.

When you take time off to have a baby you are entitled to 52 weeks off work and you could also be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay for 39 weeks.

Your employer pays the Statutory Maternity Pay and it does not matter if you do not go back to work after the birth of your baby. You don’t have to pay back any of the money if you do not return to work.

In order to qualify, you also have to be earning more than the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL) which changes every year. There are a few exceptions – such as women who work mainly abroad.

The earliest you can start your maternity leave and start receiving Statutory Maternity Pay is 11 weeks before the baby is due. The latest is the week after the week that the baby is born.

Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for 39 weeks at two different rates. You will get 90% of your normal gross weekly pay for the first six weeks of your maternity leave. For the rest of your maternity leave (the remaining 33 weeks) you will get a standard weekly rate or 90% of your pay if you are earning less than the standard weekly rate.

Find out details of eligibilty, current rates, how to claim and how maternity pay is calculated and paid, at GOV.UK.

Alternatively guides to Maternity Pay & Leave are available from:

If you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, or your employer cannot pay it for some reason, they must give you a form called a SMP1 setting out their reasons.

A template letter (MSWord) to your emplouer requesting maternity leave is available to download at this link:

However, if you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay you may be eligible for Maternity Allowance and Sure Start Maternity Grant.

For a detailed Guide to Maternity Benefits, follow this link.

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