Changing jobs while on maternity leave

You’re about to start maternity leave and want to know what your options are.

Baby in front of laptop


Firstly, what maternity pay can you get and how is it calculated? Secondly, what would the impact be on your maternity pay if you start a new job or a new freelance role or business during your maternity leave?

Calculating SMP

If you are entitled to statutory maternity pay, it is paid for a period of up to 39 weeks as follows: –

The first 6 weeks are payable at the higher rate of SMP, which is 90% of your “normal weekly” earnings;

The remaining 33 weeks are paid at the lower rate of SMP (currently £145.18 per week) or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is less.

The rate payable therefore depends on your “normal weekly” earnings. These are calculated as a weekly average of your total gross earnings from your employer (and associated employers) during a particular reference period (the “relevant period”).

As a rule of thumb, the earnings taken into account for monthly paid employees are those set out on the last two payslips before the Qualifying Week (which is the 15th week before your Expected Week of Confinement / Childbirth). For weekly paid employees, the last eight payslips before the Qualifying Week are taken into account.

Looking in more detail, the relevant period ends with the last normal pay day on or before the end of the Qualifying Week and begins after the last normal payday at least 8 weeks earlier (Regulation 21(3) of the SMP Regulations). Therefore, to calculate maternity pay, find the relevant period:-

  • Take the last normal payday on or before the end of the Qualifying Week. (If you have already given birth by then, take the last normal payday before the week of birth). That normal payday is the last day of the relevant period.
  • Count back 8 weeks from that day.
  • Take the last normal payday before that date. The day after that payday is the first day of the relevant period.

NB: if no “normal payday” is identifiable from your contract or from the employer’s normal practice, actual payment days are used.

What happens to SMP if I do other paid work on maternity leave?

The good news is that you can do self-employed work during maternity leave without any impact on your Statutory Maternity Pay.

However, if you do not qualify for SMP and are in receipt of Maternity Allowance you cannot do more than 10 paid Keeping in Touch Days during your maternity leave until your maternity pay is stopped.

>Many women who run their own businesses worry about the implications of taking leave for the continuity of their business. receives lots of questions from women who are worried about how to keep their business ticking over while they are on maternity leave. The advice is that your maternity pay will only end if you do paid work during your maternity leave. However, you can draw down profits from the business without maternity pay being affected.

If you start a new paid job during maternity leave you should inform HMRC and give your due notice. If you do not give in your notice, you will still be considered an employee of the first company.

Your SMP will stop the week you start the new job. You can get round this by starting the new job in the unpaid part of your maternity leave [after nine months].

If you have not given in and served your notice, you should also check your contract to see if you are required to inform your employer if you take up another job. For example, you may be required to obtain permission from your manager. Such permission should not be unreasonably withheld.

For enhanced maternity pay policies, you need to check your company’s policy as some include a clause about paying back the enhanced part of your pay if you do not return to work after maternity leave, usually for a specified period.

Comments [60]

  • Amy says:

    Hi. I was successful in an interview on first day of maternity leave for the job I had been doing on a secondment basis (NHS). Manager obviously aware of situation, but is unsure when to start new contract and HR have been useless. If the new permanent contract starts before end of maternity leave (May 2024), will I lose my maternity pay and any accrued Annual Leave?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, Is the job with the same employer? If so, it shouldn’t affect maternity pay and leave, but check your employer’s maternity policy if you get enhanced maternity. SMP is not affected if you change jobs once you have qualified for it.

  • Llucia Cabral Ortega says:

    I am on maternity leave, I work on the nhs , I had 3 months already, but I want to apply for a new job in the same trust. Can I apply and if I am successful can I still on maternity leave ?

  • Sam says:

    I’m currently on the unpaid part of my mat leave, I have handed my 3months notice in but can I start my new job before this ends? Without affecting holiday pay? They haven’t sent my p45 through.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      You would normally have to serve your notice and your holiday would accrue until your final day of work so it would have an effect, even if the employer didn’t pursue you for failure to serve your notice. You could talk to your employer and come to an arrangement, however.

  • Andrea says:

    I work at an NHS trust and have for almost 18 months. Previously worked at other NHS trusts totalling 7 years. First pregnancy due at the end of November, and am considering changing jobs and worried about what the possible impacts to my paid maternity leave. I need to serve 3 calendar months notice, so I would only be working in the new post for 4 – 6 weeks before expecting to start my maternity leave. The 15 week before due date will be during my notice period. Any advice would be really helpful. Thanks

  • Reeba Baby says:

    I work in NHS ,currently on maternity leave 39 weeks paid leave + 2 week unpaid leave, my maternity pay is spread equally over 41 weeks . Just saw a job ad of one of my dream job and really wanna give a try, but bit hesitant as I am on maternity leave, If I turn out successful, also if the job is not within NHS how this is will affect me?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, if you are on enhanced maternity pay ie more than SMP – six weeks at 90% followed by 33 weeks at the statutory rate of around 156 pounds a week – you will need to read your employer’s maternity policy. It may stipulate that you have to pay back the enhanced pay [not the SMP] that you received if you don’t return after maternity leave.

  • Kb says:

    I got offered a new job whilst I’ve been on maternity for 4 months with the NHS. New job is not within the NHS so I need to return for 12 weeks so I don’t need to pay OMP back. Do I need to give 8 weeks notice to new job to start and return to NHS to complete 12 weeks or can I just stop my OMP and start 2nd job straight away? One is day shift and one is backshift so can do both together till the 12 weeks is complete.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Are you saying that you would be doing your 12 weeks, but working a second job on the side? Is there anything in your contract that prevents you doing a second job? If not, as long as you serve the 12 weeks on your return from maternity leave you shouldn’t have to pay back your OMP.

      • Kb says:

        Yeah the second job is during the day and my nhs job is a few hours at night. Nothing in my contract stops me from working a second job. Just don’t know when I can start the second job as my maternity isn’t due to finish till July.

  • Lindsey says:

    I work within the nhs and will be commencing mat leave January 2021 however a position of progression in the same trust and team has come up am I able to apply for this and still have my mat leave without it affecting it?

  • Holly says:

    Hi, I have just handed in my notice at my current role (currently on maternity leave) the notice is 3 months. I have an interview lined up with a new company, If I take this job I understand I will come off maternity leave/pay legally can you take this job if you still are in notice period from your old job. I hope I have worded this correctly.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Legally, notice can still be enforced on maternity leave. You should let your employer know as you are still legally an employee of the company and you can negotiate a shorter notice period with your current employer.

  • Danielle says:

    Good morning,

    I work for the NHS currently and looking to apply for a new job (still within the NHS) during my maternity leave. If I don’t go back to my old NHS job and start with a new trust with no gap in service, do I need to pay my old NHS trust my maternity pay back?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      In the NHS Enhanced Occupational Maternity Pay Scheme, it says:

      To qualify for OMP, the employee must:
      • Have at least one year’s continuous service in total within the NHS, by the
      11th week before the EWC, provided there has been no break in service of
      more than 3 months;
      • Intend to return to work with the PCT or another NHS employer for a
      minimum of 3 months after her maternity leave has ended [ie you can move between trusts as long as there is no gap of 3 months or more]

  • Rainbow says:

    I work for the NHS (paid by an individual Trust) and have received an interview invite for another NHS trust. I am currently on Maternity leave and am not due back until Jan 2021 and I have two queries if I am successful.
    1. The new job would require a reference from my current job, therefore I would need to notify them of my intent to leave, but I am still entitled to my maternity pay, both SMP an OMP, as I would be moving within the NHS. Can I hand in my notice, but cite my leaving date as 31st December 2020? Ie give 7 months notice?
    2. I am concerned if I take the above option that I would have no protection from my new
    job, as I have encountered jobs were contracts are signed on your first day. For example, I have handed in my notice, but the other job falls through. Can I ask the new job to sign a contract in advance to state my start date as 1st January? Thanks

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, Could you not negotiate with the new employer to not start the job until January in which case you would only need to hand in your notice just before you start?

  • Tina says:

    Hi I’ll be starting maternity next week, a part time role has been offered to me today, if I start today will this stop my SMP next week? (Not planning to swap jobs but keep both) I understand SMP would stop if I started this job whilst on leave and receiving SMP but if I start now before maternity leave will I still be entitled for SMP from my main job? Baby not due for another 2 months

    I don’t mind not getting entitled to any SMP or allowance with this new part time job they are very flexible and will still let me have unpaid time off for when the baby arrives

    But I don’t want to accept the part time job if it cancels

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, This is what the Govt says: Employee starts work with another employer after the QW and before the baby is born:
      If your employee starts work for another employer after the QW, but before the birth of the child you do not have to pay SMP for any weeks they work for that employer after the baby is born. You must reinstate SMP for any full maternity weeks your employee does not work for that employer after the baby is born. If your employee’s contract with that employer ends during the MPP, their entitlement to SMP will restart until the end of the MPP.

  • Ellie says:

    Bit of a different question
    I’m applying for a new job, the start date is September 2020 but I wouldn’t want to start until January 2021 as I’ll be on maternity leave. When should I tell them this? Before interview? At? Or after (if) I got offered the job?

  • Debs says:

    Hi. I’m currently on unpaid maternity leave but have applied for a new job. Can I give in my 4 week notice period but start the new job in 3 weeks?

  • Jenny says:

    I work for the nhs in Essex and want to relocate in uk and still work for the nhs. Do I have to payback my maternity leave or is it ok because I will still work within the nhs.

  • Rebecca says:

    Hi, I am currently on maternity leave and due back in April, I have applied for another job but have not heard back from then for a interview yet. I have not recieved my maternity pay for this month, I can’t think of any other reason why they would not pay me, could they refuse to pay me if I have applied for another job? The job which I have applied for only starts later on in the year

  • Georgia says:

    Hello, I’m currently on NHS mat leave and due to return full time October 2021.
    I have been offered (and accepted) a part time contract at a different trust and due to start April 2021.
    Usually I would have to give 8 weeks notice, but as they’re not expecting my return until October, what do I do?

  • Sarah says:

    Hello, I am 25 weeks pregnant and been offered a new job. However I have a 3 month notice perioid with my current company so would look to start my new job after maternity leave of about 7-8 months. Do i still qualify for SMP if i had in my notice at my current company now, or should i wait untill i am on maternity leave to hand in my notice to qualify for SMP? thanks

    • Mandy Garner says:

      It’s worth waiting until the end of the 26th week of pregnancy to hand in your notice just to be on the safe side. After that you qualify for SMP no matter what happens afterwards if you meet all the other eligibility criteria.

  • kemi Amole says:

    Hi I’ve applied for a new job, but currently on maternity leave till May from my old job. If I was to get the new job am I able to finish my maternity before starting,?

  • Jennifer Heywood says:

    Hi, I’ve just been offered a new job whilst still on maternity leave. I only get Maternity allowance. Do I have tonwait until my notice period rundle out before starting my new job or can I hand in my resignation and then start my new job the following week?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, You should serve your notice period, but many employers would not apply it in these circumstances. Just check with your employer that it is okay. Your MA will stop the week you start any new job.

  • Laura says:

    I have part time jobs and have already done and been paid for 10 kit days with one. If I were to do some more hours (home working) during the paid period of mat leave but not claim the pay until after smp finishes is that a way around losing my pay? I have the option to do some online training so its hours here and there but will add up to a week in the end and have a year to do it but the way I will claim it then my pay slip will detail dates that will be during my smp period. So I think my short question is do the kit days count for when you work or when the payment is made?

    • Mandy Garner says:

      The KIT days count for when you work during the maternity leave period. Outside of the KIT days you should not be doing any paid work during your maternity leave unless it is self employed work.

  • Kayleigh Anderson says:

    Hi my paid maternity leave is over with my job I’m now on unpaid leave till october.. can I go to work for a different company now ? As I’m still classed as on maternity leave as the job I applied for starts before my leave ends.. I want to go back to this job also but not until October until my unpaid leave has finished..

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, Your SMP would not be affected, but you should check in your contract if you are allowed to do a second job as you are still under contract to your initial employer. You can do self-employed work during maternity leave without any impact on your SMP.

  • Jenifer Moordown says:

    If you want to start a new job at the end of your maternity leave, not return to the old one do you have to pay back the SMP to the place you leave?

    They said that you have to give 8 weeks to go back and then work for 13 or else pay it back? Is that right?


    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, You don’t have to pay back SMP if you don’t return. It is only included in some enhanced maternity leave contracts. SMP is six weeks at 90% pay followed by 33 weeks at the statutory rate.

  • Michelle Gray says:

    I’ve just started a new job 17.1.2020. My maternity leave didn’t finish till February 17th so I’ve been paid from old job even though I told beginning of January I would not be returning, is this correct or have I got to pay this back.

  • Amy says:

    Hi, I’m currently on maternity leave but quit my job 6 weeks ago giving my 4 weeks notice. He’s still paying my maternity but I want to start a new job, do I have to tell him or will HMRC just stop him from claiming it?

  • Amanda says:

    Hi there I’m currently on maternity leave from my full time job and this finishes in may 2020, If i accept a job and start at the end of April I was woundering if I would still get my last maternity payment and my 2 weeks holidays that I’m due from work. This would be a week before my maternity stops.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, Your SMP would stop the week you start a new paid job. You would accrue holiday up to the final day of employment at your old employer after serving your notice.

    • Sara Kelly says:

      I have been offended a new job while on maternity as it ends in april. What way will it work if I have to do 5 weeks training and dont get paid for 4 weeks.

      • Mandy Garner says:

        Hi Sara,
        Will you still be in the paid part of your SMP at this point?

        • Michelle Gray says:

          I’ve just started a new job 17.1.2020. My maternity leave didn’t finish till February 17th so I’ve been paid from old job even though I told beginning of January I would not be returning, is this correct or have I got to pay this back.

          • Mandy Garner says:

            Hi Michelle,
            Your maternity pay should stop the week you start a new job so you will need to inform HMRC and repay any maternity pay paid after you started work.

          • Jessica says:


            I’m currently on maternity leave and I am going to be added as a shareholder to my husband’s business. Will I lose the right to maternity pay from my company? And if so who do I need to inform for this to be actioned?

          • Mandy Garner says:

            Hi, I am assuming you work as an employee at another organisation, ie you are on the pay roll? Do you qualify for SMP? If you work at another organisation your maternity pay would not be affected.

        • Ola says:

          Hi my maternity finish in the end of September. Till now I got payd SMP (9months) so next three months without payment. My question is:
          Can I go back to the same job earlier than after my year maternity, for part time? Do I have the same rights to holidays etc

          • Mandy Garner says:

            Hi, If you want to return early from maternity leave you need to give at least eight weeks’ notice. If you were to return part time tour holidays would be pro rata’d ie if you worked three days instead of five and you got 28 days holiday in the past, you would be entitled to three fifths of 28 days.

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