Updated 2024:

In January 2015 the Government published an ‘online calculator’ to calculate your entitlements to maternity, paternity and shared parental leave, which you can see here.  The current rates are below:

Type of Maternity Leave Length of Service needed as an EMPLOYEE
Leave Entitlement
Ordinary Leave No minimum needed 26 weeks
Additional Leave No minimum needed Additional 26 weeks (52 in total). There must be no gap between the two entitlements.
Type of Maternity Pay Length of Service needed as a WORKER/FREELANCER or as an EMPLOYEE
Maternity Allowance (MA)









Other Maternity Allowance

No minimum needed although you must have worked, either as an employee, worker or self-employed/sole-trader freelancer, for 26 weeks out of the 66 weeks (for any employer) before your baby is due, to be eligible.






Regulations came into effect on 1st April 2014 that allows women who work in an unpaid capacity in the business of a self-employed spouse/civil partner, and who give birth on or after 27th July 2014, to receive a weekly allowance.

  • Payable through your local JobCentre Plus for 39 weeks at the rate of 90% of your average weekly earnings up to a maximum of £172.48 per week, increasing to £184.03 from 7th April 2024.
  • The earliest MA can start is 11 weeks before your EWC (expected week of childbirth).  The latest time you can get MA is 1 day after the birth of your baby.
  • If you are eligible for MA then your last Employer must give you form SMP1 so you can claim this from the JobCentre.


The allowance is £27 per week payable for up to 14 weeks.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) You need 26 weeks continuous service with your Employer, as an Employee or Worker,  by the 15th week before your baby is due.This also applies to those who have their own Personal Service/Limited Company – where they are eligible as ’employees’ of their own Limited Company.
  • Payable via your Employer for 39 weeks. The earliest SMP can start is 11 weeks  before your EWC (expected week of confinement).
  • If you meet the 26/15 week qualifying periods (opposite) but your contract/employment ends before the start of the 11th week before your baby is due, your SMP willl still be paid by your Employer and will still start at the 11th week before your baby is due.
  • SMP is 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks then paid at the flat rate of £172.48 per week, increasing to £184.03 from 7th April 2024.
  • Your Employer may offer more generous payments during these 39 weeks, and may offer some payment through the remaining 13 weeks (of Additional Maternity Leave).
  • If your Employer pays into a Pension Scheme for you they must continue making their contributions during the 39 weeks SMP or for any time you receive any enhanced ‘contractual’ Maternity Pay.
  • Normal tax and national insurance contributions will be deducted from SMP.
  • If you are eligible for SMP you must give your Employer proof of the date your baby is due by giving them your MatB1 form.  You must give them this form as soon as you can, but no later than 3 weeks after the date your SMP is due to start as your Employer cannot pay you SMP without this form.
  • You must give your Employer at least 28 days notice of the date you want your SMP to start.  You can change your mind about the start date but must give them 28 days notice of any new date.


Maternity Allowance may be available if you are a worker or self-employed, or are an employee with less than 26 weeks service.  If you do not qualify for either you may be able to get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead via your local Job Centre.

For more details about continuous service see our Guide here.

You need to earn a minimum of £120 per week to be eligible for Maternity Allowance or SMP. If you do not earn this amount you will still be entitled to unpaid Maternity Leave (if you meet the qualifying conditions).

The minimum period of maternity leave you have to take following the birth is 2 weeks.  From 3rd April 2011, if you do not take your full allowance of 39 weeks Maternity Pay, the father of your child/your spouse/your partner may be eligible to take the remaining entitlement that you have not used if they meet the conditions to be eligible for the new Additional Paternity Leave – see the details about this new entitlement here.  Additional Paternity Leave will be abolished when the new Shared Parental Leave system comes into force on 1st April 2015.

There are no age restrictions to receiving MA or SMP.


Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.