Statutory maternity pay (SMP)
To qualify for SMP, you must have worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the week the baby is due. To find the 15th week, look on a calendar for the Sunday before your baby is due, or the day it is due if that is a Sunday, and count back 15 Sundays from there.
You must have worked at least 26 weeks with your employer by the end of that week in order to qualify for SMP. You must still be employed in that job in the 15th week before the baby is due and you must earn at least £120.00 [2021-2022] per week on average during the eight weeks before the 15th week. You do not lose your entitlement to SMP if you leave employment after the 15th week or do not intend to return to work.
Rate of SMP
For the first six weeks you get 90 per cent of your average pay. After that you get the basic rate of SMP, which, at the date of publication, is £151.97 per week, for up to 33 weeks. SMP is only payable when you are away from work so if you work at any time during your maternity leave you will not get SMP for that week. The exception to this is the introduction of keeping in touch (KIT) days, which allow women to work for up to ten days without bringing their maternity leave to an end or losing SMP or maternity allowance.
Period of payment
SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks. It is for you to decide how many weeks you wish to claim. The earliest week that you can get SMP is the 11th week before the birth. If your baby is stillborn from week 16 before the expected date of childbirth, you can now get SMP. You are entitled to 39 weeks’ maternity pay whenever you decide to leave work. If you have a pregnancy-related illness in the four weeks before the baby is due and this triggers your maternity leave, you will not be able to claim statutory sick pay (SSP).
If your illness is not pregnancy-related, you can claim SSP until your maternity leave and pay start.
How to claim
To claim SMP, you may apply at the same time that you give notice to your employer of your pregnancy and your intention to take maternity leave. This would be by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of the birth. If you have not already requested SMP, you may write to your employer at least 28 days before you stop work, asking that you be paid it.
If you have not already done so, you must send them a copy of your maternity certificate, form MAT B1, which your GP or midwife will have given you. Under the Burgundy Book scheme, the first 18 weeks’ pay includes SMP and occupational maternity pay, the SMP being claimed on your behalf by your employer. If you were entitled to occupational maternity pay it would not be necessary for you to make any claim apart from informing your employer that you wished to receive SMP when giving notification of absence.