Claiming Statutory Maternity Pay while starting a business

My boyfriend and I are living in a one-bedroom flat so we can pay off our debts before we start a family. We are planning on doing this next year. I currently bring home £1,800 and he around £1,400 pcm. I have worked for my current employer for two years and work approx 70 hours a week. I am also completing a course to become a foot health practitioner. We decided to go ahead and start a family before setting up the business as I would want to wait until it was doing well until having a baby and this takes time. Also I would have to factor in potentially losing clients whilst I was off work. So we are going to bite the bullet. I am planning on starting up very slowly once the baby is born and take the baby with me so I wouldn’t need to factor in childcare costs. Would starting my business whilst on maternity leave affect my maternity pay? Also I am earning a really good wage now and it will be a very big drop for me to go to SMP. I have the option to go part time with my current employer and to get another part-time job now before I get pregnant. I would ideally like to get a part-time job I can do from home so that I can continue to do that once the baby arrives. Am I correct in thinking that I will be able to do that? And am I correct in thinking that this will not affect my SMP from my current employer?

The starting point is that if you are working 70 hours a week for your current employer then European law says you should only work an average 48 hours a week, although you may have signed an opt-out allowing you to work longer. It may be that this is through choice because you want to earn more and are paid hourly, but if not and you are paid annually then consider serving a notice on your employer to opt back into the 48-hour working week. This will be particularly important when you are pregnant and your employer should do a health and safety risk assessment.

Do not overlook shared parental leave (SPL) which allows you to share your maternity leave and pay with your partner, subject to qualifying conditions (see the Government calculator at

I am assuming that you intend carrying on working for your current employer and also starting up your new business? Starting your business whilst on maternity leave will not affect your maternity pay with your employer, but check that there is nothing in your contract of employment with your current employer which says that you cannot do this or you need their permission. I have assumed that your new business is not competing with your current employer, but if it does then you will need to take further advice. Remember, you are not permitted to work anywhere during the first two weeks of maternity leave.

You can work part time for one or more businesses, but it might affect your SMP entitlement as set out below, and your reduced salary will mean a reduced SMP rate.

If you are employed by your current employer and the new employer at the qualifying week (i.e. the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth) and your current employer is solely responsible for the SMP payments, you can continue working in the second part-time job whilst on maternity leave from the current business without it affecting your SMP entitlement.

However, if you start the second job after the maternity leave begins, this will end your SMP entitlement from your current employer. If this scenario applies to you, you have to tell your employer within seven days and will have to pay back any SMP paid for the week(s) you were working although you may be able to claim maternity allowance from the Jobcentre.

You have to be employed for 26 weeks by the qualifying week to qualify for maternity pay (although you might qualify for maternity allowance, but this is not at 90% for the first six weeks like SMP but instead you would get the flat weekly rate). If you are employed by both companies at the qualifying week and qualify for SMP from both businesses, you can claim SMP from both employers and adjust your maternity leave to maximise your SMP entitlement although working for either company during your maternity leave will bring the SMP entitlement paid by that particular business to an end.

As you want to maximise your earnings if you decide to go part time, I suggest you ensure you have had both part-time roles in place for six months by the 15th week before EWC and also consider using your Keeping In Touch days if the business(es) will pay a reasonable level of pay for these days. You can take up to 10 Keeping In Touch days whilst on maternity leave and a further 20 if you elect to take shared parental leave so this could be a sensible way of keeping up to date with the business whilst also increasing your income during the leave period.

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