What You Should Know About Maternity Rights
By Alison Steed
HAVING a baby is both one of the most exciting and most terrifying times of your life, and the last thing you want to be worrying about is what you can and cannot do in relation to maternity rights.
Employees and maternity rights
The main thing to remember is that women taking maternity leave from an employer have a lot of rights, but also certain responsibilities they have to honour to ensure they get the most out of their time away from work.
Maternity leave, pay and benefits are the main things you can expect, but you are also legally protected against being dismissed or treated unfairly just because you are pregnant. However, that does not mean you cannot be made redundant if your employer is making cuts to its staff.
The first thing to do is tell your employer about your pregnancy, and speak to him or her about the dates of your maternity leave. The sooner you do this, the better, but at the very latest it should be before the 15th week before the week that you are due to give birth.
You can get paid leave to attend antenatal appointments once you have told your employer about your pregnancy, and you should not delay doing this as it helps your employer plan for the time you are being away. The more planning time they have, the more chance they have of ensuring your rights are properly dealt with.
Even though you may be nervous about telling your employer, it is an obligation, and it is wise to give a written confirmation of your pregnancy, with due dates, maternity leave dates and, if you know them, the dates of your antenatal appointments. You can find a template letter here to help you with this. The more you help your employer, the more you can expect in return.
Maternity leave and pay
You can get a statutory 52 weeks off work, and you can get statutory maternity pay (SMP) for 39 weeks of that time – which is currently £123.06 a week. You have to have worked for your employer continuously for 26 weeks before the 15th week before you are due, and be getting at least £95 a week before tax.
The amount you will get from your employer will vary, and for the first six weeks you will get 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, no matter what they are. So, if you get £200 a week, then you should get £180 a week for the first six weeks before tax.
For the following 33 weeks, that will fall to the current level of SMP, or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings before tax, and you need to pay national insurance and tax on both.
During your maternity pay period, you can work for 10 days – known as “Keeping In Touch” or KIT days – but if you work one more day, you will lose your payment for the week in which you worked, even if it was for just one day.
Yes, you did read that right, daddies also get paid leave for two weeks after their partner gives birth to spend time with their child. The same rules apply on how much is given, SPP is paid at £123.06 or 90 per cent of your usual wage, whichever is lower, and you have to be earning an average of at least £90 a week before tax to qualify for it.
If you want paternity leave, then you have to tell your employer the 15th week before your partner’s due date, and give 28 days’ notice if you decide against taking the leave.
If your employer is unable to pay you SMP, then he or she needs to give you form SMP1 to explain why, and return your copy of the maternity certificate MAT B1, which will be given to you within the last 20 weeks of your pregnancy. You would then need to send your SMP1 form to Jobcentre Plus with your maternity allowance claim form to get the benefit,
Maternity Allowance is available if you are employed and do not qualify for SMP, you are self-employed, have a Small Earnings Exemption Certificate, or you are unemployed. This payment will be made to you every two weeks.
You can make the claim for MA once you have been pregnant for 26 weeks, but again you cannot work for more than 10 days while you are receiving this benefit, otherwise you will lose the benefit for any weeks in which you work after that.
Sure Start Maternity Grant
This is a one-off payment of £500 which is paid to those on low income, and you are eligible if you receive certain benefits, such as income support or Pension Credit. The payment is not means tested, so the amount you have in savings will not affect it, and it will not change your other benefit entitlements either.
You need to claim the grant though, by getting form SF100 either from your local Jobcentre Plus or from the Department for Work and Pensions website. You have between the 29th week of your pregnancy and when your child reaches three months to claim it.