Who qualifies for Statutory Maternity Pay?
In order to be eligable to receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), an employee must:
- have been working for the same employer for 26 weeks (i.e. six months) or more prior to the 'notification week’ (NW). The 'notification week' is 15 weeks before the baby's due date, and
- be paid an amount that at least equals the current Lower Earnings Limit (LEL). The LEL is the amount an employee has to earn before they are entitled to receive statutory benefits and contributions towards their state pension. Please refer to the Rates and Thresholds page for the current LEL amount.
If an employee qualifies for SMP then it is their employer’s statutory obligation to pay it. If an employee does not meet the criteria for SMP, they may be able to claim Maternity Allowance (MA) instead through Jobcentre Plus. For more information about Maternity Allowance, please refer to the Directgov website.
When can maternity leave begin?
The actual period of maternity leave can begin any time after 14 weeks before the baby is due, but the maternity pay period will not commence until the 11th week before the due date.
How much is SMP?
SMP is payable for a maximum period of 39 weeks. The first six weeks of SMP are paid at 90% of average gross weekly earnings and is subject to Tax and NI deductions. The remaining weeks of the maternity pay period (up to a maximum of 33 weeks) qualify for maternity pay at the current SMP rate or continue at 9/10ths of the average gross earnings, whichever is the lower amount. Please see the Rates and Thresholds page for up-to-date SMP rates.
The employer can usually reclaim all the SMP costs involved. At Enable Payroll we will calculate and apply to HMRC for the SMP rebate on the employer's behalf. The employee should provide a Maternity Certificate (MATB1) for this purpose. The MATB1 is issued 20 weeks before the baby's due date and the employee can ask their doctor or midwife for it. We will issue payslips for the employee throughout the period of maternity leave, showing SMP paid and any Tax and NI deductions.
The employee should advise their employer during their Notification Week (NW) of when they intend to start maternity leave. However this date can be changed providing 28 days notice is given in writing by the employee.
Keeping in touch
The Government have introduced 10 “Keeping in Touch Days” which means the employee may work for up to 10 days without bringing their Maternity leave to an end or losing entitlement to SMP or MA. This enables both the employee and employer to keep in touch during leave if they wish to. They can be used for any work related activity and working for part of a day will count as one day’s work. Employers now can also make reasonable contact during Maternity leave, for example, to discuss the employee’s return to work. Any work during maternity leave must be by agreement and neither the employer nor the employee can insist on it.
Transferring Maternity Leave
An employee whose baby is due after 3rd April 2011 has the option of transferring up to 26 weeks of their statutory leave to their spouse, partner, civil- or cohabiting partner or the father their child. This can only normally take place between 20 weeks after the baby is born and before the child's 1st birthday and once the mother (or primary carer of the child) has returned to work and is no longer receiving SMP or MA.
Returning to work
All employees have a right to return to work on the same terms as they were previously employed. To qualify for SMP, the employee does not have to intend to return to work after their baby is born. If the employee is not returning to work then Enable Payroll will issue a P45 at the end of the SMP period. An employee is technically still employed until then. If an employee wants to return, they are entitled to an additional 13 weeks unpaid leave before returning to work.