Maternity Pay and Leave

When you take time off work to have a baby, you may be eligible for maternity pay. There are certain rules around claiming your paid leave.

Maternity Leave

Statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks. It’s made up of:

  • Ordinary maternity leave- first 26 weeks
  • Additional maternity leave- last 26 weeks

You don’t have to take 52 weeks, but you must take 2 weeks after your baby is born (or 4 if you work in a factory).

Generally, the earliest you can start your leave is 11 weeks before the due date. Leave will also start the day after the birth if the baby is born early, or automatically if you are off work for a pregnancy related illness 4 weeks before the week that you’re due. Maternity-Pay

If you wish to change your return to work date, you need to let your employer know at least 8 weeks in advance.


Statutory Maternity Pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. You’ll get:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax for 6 weeks.
  • £139.98 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

You could also take Shared Parental Leave between yourself and your partner. You must share joint responsibility and have been employed by the same employer for a specific amount of weeks.

Statutory maternity pay usually begins when you take your maternity leave.

If you believe your pay isn’t right, ask your employer to explain it. If you and your employer disagree, you can contact HMRC.


If you are classed as an employee, not a worker, and you give your employer the correct amount of notice, you’ll be eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave. It won’t matter how long you’ve been with your employer or how much you get paid.

To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay you must earn:

  • An average of £112 a week  1464
  • Give the correct amount of notice
  • Have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks leading up to the ‘qualifying week’ which is the 15th week before child birth.

You can still get leave and maternity pay if your baby is born early, is stillborn after your 24th week of pregnancy or dies after being born.

If you aren’t eligible for statutory maternity pay, your employer must give you form SP1 explaining why you aren’t eligible.

 How to claim

At least 15 weeks before you are due, you should tell your employer when your baby is due and when you wish to start your maternity leave. Your employer is entitled to ask for this in writing. They must then write to you within 28 days to confirm your start and end dates.

If you believe you should be eligible for statutory maternity pay, you need to inform your employer of the day you want it to start. You should also give at least 28 days notice and provide proof that you’re pregnant- this could be a letter from your doctor or midwife, or form MATB1 which is usually issued by your midwife 20 weeks before your due date.


You may be entitled to certain benefits whilst pregnant such as child benefit, child tax credit or working tax credits. You could also get a SureStart maternity grant if it’s your first child.

If your company has a maternity scheme, you could get more than the statutory rate of pay.

Lastly, you can also get up to 18 weeks of unpaid maternity leave.