A Guide to Statutory Maternity Pay

You’re pregnant! Congratulations! You’ve already chosen a name and called her, Summer. Let’s assume that Summer’s due at the end of September:

Maternity leave



  1. Summer’s due date: Sunday 30 September 2018. This is the Expected Week of Childbirth or EWC for short.
  2. Qualifying Week: Sunday 17 June 2018. This is the 15th week before Summer is due or QW for short.
  3. SMP start date: Sunday 15 July 2018. This is the 11th week before Summer is due.
  4. Start Maternity leave: Sunday 15 July 2018

Read the above again so you know where you are.

Am I entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay [SMP]?

To get SMP you’ll need to have been in your job for 26 weeks by the end of the QW. Just remember that your average weekly earnings in the 8 weeks up to and including the QW need to be more than the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions to get SMP.

You need to still be pregnant at the SMP start date and you need to provide a MAT B1 form to your employer stating your EWC. If you do not qualify for SMP, you may be eligible for Maternity Allowance.

What happens if I resign?

If you resign at the end of the QW you still get SMP. Before that, you’re not entitled.

Do I have to pay SMP back if I decide not to return?

No. You don’t have to pay SMP back if you decide not to return BUT if you’re lucky enough to be paid enhanced SMP by your employer you need to check your contract to see if there are any rules on paying the extra back.

Do I still get SMP if I leave and start working for another employer during maternity leave?

No. If you’re working you’re no longer on maternity leave. Simple.

How much do I get?

You’ll get SMP for 39 weeks and its divided into two parts:

1. The first 6 weeks is based on 90% of your earnings. Its worked out on your previous 8 weeks earnings up to and including the QW.
2. For the other 33 weeks you’ll get £140.98. This will increase a bit in April to £145.18.

Remember, for the purposes of calculating average weekly earnings, shift allowances, overtime payments, bonuses and commission are all included.

When can I get it?

From the 11th week before your EWC (well done if you didn’t have to refer back to the reference section above!)

What happens if I’m off sick when I’m pregnant?

If you’re off sick during your pregnancy you’ll get paid statutory sick pay in the normal way. If you’re off sick for pregnancy related illness after the beginning of the 4th week before the EWC (you looked at the reference section didn’t you!) but before the date you intend to start maternity leave, you’ll automatically be put on maternity leave on the first date of your sickness absence.

Do I get any more money?

Possibly if you decide to do some Keep In Touch Days. You can agree with your employer to have up to 10 of these. Keep in mind that your employer has no right to require you to carry out any work, and you have no right to accept or demand work, during your maternity leave.

Your employer will need to consider how any payment for work done on a particular day will work alongside any SMP due and will offset any salary paid against any SMP that may be due. It’s also worth knowing that if you work just an hour on a particular day that counts towards one of your 10 days.

*Wendy Comerford is Solicitor & Managing Director of employment law specialist WH Legal.

Comments [6]

  • Sarah says:

    I thought the law stated that maternity leave, and therefore SMP, commence the day AFTER the birth (if the mum isn’t already on maternity leave at the time of the birth)? So in the example above, mat leave and SMP would start on the Monday, not the Sunday.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      Hi, You can choose to start your maternity leave from the 11th week before your due date up until the day after your baby is born. If your baby is born early your SMP will start the day after the birth, but you may already have selected a date when you want your maternity leave and your SMP to start. Your leave will also automatically start if you are off sick with a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before your due date.

  • Alex says:

    “If you resign at the end of the QW you still get SMP. Before that, you’re not entitled.”
    By “resign”, does that mean hand your notice in, or your last working day?

  • leslie morris says:

    If I qualify for maternity leave can I ask that this moneys is paid up front as a lump sum and if I return back to work after being off work for just 3 months will I have to pay back any SMP if received up front lump sum, or if paid weekly/monthly will it stop when I return to my old job in the same position and salary as before SMP started.

    • Mandy Garner says:

      SMP is normally paid monthly or weekly and only in a lump sum on redundancy. Is that what you mean? If you are paid it in a lump sum on redundancy and subsequently take a new job before the 39 weeks of paid maternity leave, you will have to pay back any SMP covering the remaining paid weeks ie if you start a new job in week six, you will owe 33 weeks of SMP.

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