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When you’re going on maternity leave to have a baby, it’s likely your finances will be pretty tight. You might be able to claim Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if you’ve been working for your employer for a while and this could help with the cost of raising your child.

But if you’ve not been working for your employer for long enough or you’re self-employed, you could get Maternity Allowance instead. The rules around who can claim this are quite confusing so let’s take a look at who the benefit is for and how much you could get.

Who’s it for?

Maternity Allowance is for some women who have recently given birth or who are due to have a baby, and who don’t qualify for SMP. This could be if you:

• have just quit work to have your baby

• are self-employed, or

• don’t earn over the threshold to get SMP.

You’ll have to have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks of the 66 weeks before your baby is due. These 26 weeks don’t have to be in one block – they can be split up throughout the 66 weeks and they don’t even have to be for the same employer.

To qualify for Maternity Allowance, you’ll also need to have earned an average of £30 a week for 13 weeks of 66 weeks before your due date. These 13 weeks don’t have to be in a row either, so don’t worry if you had a break for a few weeks. If you’re eligible, you can claim Maternity Allowance any time after you’re 26 weeks pregnant.

If you’re not eligible for Maternity Allowance, you might still be able to claim a lower rate Maternity Allowance. You’ll be able to get this if you:

• are married or in a civil partnership

• are not employed or self-employed

• do some unpaid work for your self-employed spouse or civil partner, and

• have a partner who is registered as self-employed and pays Class 2 National Insurance.

This applies to the 66 weeks before your baby is born and you’ll have to meet the criteria for at least 26 of these weeks. You could claim this lower rate Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks if you qualify.

What you could claim

The higher rate of Maternity Allowance is £139.58 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings for up to 39 weeks. You’ll get whichever is less so if you typically earn over £155 a week, your Maternity Allowance will be capped at £139.58 a week.

If you only qualify for the lower rate Maternity Allowance, you’ll be able to get £27 a week for up to 14 weeks. Maternity Allowance is paid once every two or four weeks so if you usually get paid fortnightly, you might have to adjust your budgeting to cope.

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