If you’re going to have a baby and you’re working, then you’re likely to be entitled to some maternity pay. You’ll also be able to take a year’s maternity leave. How much might you get and what are you entitled to if you’re self employed?
Maternity pay and maternity leave
If you’re pregnant and you’re employed then you’re entitled to take a year’s maternity leave. It’s as simple as that. If you prefer, you may be able to split your maternity leave with your husband or partner and take it as ‘shared parental leave’ instead.
Although you can take a whole year off, your maternity leave is actually made up of two parts:
- Ordinary maternity leave: during which time your work contract continues and you receive all the benefits of being employed except your wages (such as a car allowance and gym membership etc)
- Additional maternity leave: where your contract continues but you won’t necessarily receive all the benefits.
SAVVY TIP: An employer cannot discriminate against you because you’ve taken maternity leave, but many women claim that their career stalls or its progression slows once they return to work.
You qualify for maternity pay if you were working for your employer for 26 weeks up to the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (which is called the ‘qualifying week’) and you earn an average of £118 a week (tax year 2019-20).
- You’ll receive 90% of your average pay in the first 6 weeks and a flat rate (currently £148.68 a week in tax year 2019-20) for the other 33 weeks (whichever is lower); although some employers choose to pay more than the statutory amount.
If you don’t qualify for maternity pay because you don’t earn enough, haven’t worked for your employer for long enough or because you work for yourself, you should be able to claim maternity allowance for 39 weeks either at £148.68 a week (tax year 2019-20) or 90% of your average earnings; whichever is lower. You can also claim £27 a week for up to 14 weeks.
SAVVY TIP: You have to pass an ‘employment test’, which basically means you have to have been employed or working for yourself for a minimum of 26 weeks out of 66 weeks before the week your baby is due. You must also have been earning £30 a week over any 13 week period. You can claim maternity allowance as soon as you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks.
An organisation called Maternity Action provides training and information on maternity rights issues and also campaigns.
There’s also a campaign called Pregnant, then screwed which highlights cases where women have been discriminated against or lost their jobs after becoming pregnant.
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