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When you’re going off work to have a baby, you’ll probably worry about how your finances are going to cope. You might not have looked at your employees’ handbook too closely, so you might not even know how much you’ll get when you’re on maternity leave.

Employers can pay as much as they want for maternity leave but there’s a legal minimum they have to give you. This is Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and you can only get it if you’ve been with your employer for long enough. Let’s find out if you qualify and what you need to do to claim it.

Can you claim it?

The rules around when you can get SMP are pretty confusing. To qualify, you need to have worked for your employer for at least 26 continuous weeks up to the 15th week before your due date. You must also earn an average of at least £112 a week.

You also need to tell your employer that you’re going on maternity leave at least 15 weeks before your due date. You might have to give your employer proof of your pregnancy – this can be either a letter from your doctor or midwife or your MATB1 certificate.

How much can you get?

You can get SMP for up to 39 weeks, and you can claim it from 11 weeks before your baby is due. However, you won’t necessarily get the same amount for the whole time.

For the first six weeks, you’ll get 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax. For the next 33 weeks, you’ll either get £139.58 or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever is the lower amount. You can have another 13 weeks off after this as part of your Statutory Maternity Leave but you won’t get anything for this.

Your employer might pay you more than this amount – SMP is just the legal minimum they can give you. It’s a good idea to check your contract or employees’ handbook for full details of your company’s maternity policy.

What could you get instead?

Don’t worry if you’re not eligible for SMP – you could claim Maternity Allowance instead. This is a Government benefit for mothers who don’t qualify for SMP if they don’t earn enough or they’re self-employed. Find out whether you could get Maternity Allowance and how much you’ll get with our blog.

You can now split your maternity leave and your SMP with your partner, thanks to Shared Parental Leave (SPL). This means that if you wanted to come back to work early, your partner could have some time off to look after the baby. You can even split your time off into a few different blocks – so you could go back to work and then go back off again.

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