If you're pregnant or have a new baby but don't qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) from any employer, you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance (MA) through the Social Security Agency. Find out more, including how to claim.
Who is eligible?
You might get Maternity Allowance if:
- you're employed, but not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay
- you're registered self-employed and paying Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs), or hold a Small Earnings Exception certificate
- you have very recently been employed or self-employed
You may be eligible if:
- you've been employed and/or self-employed for at least 26 weeks of the 'test period' (66 weeks up to and including the week before your baby is due) - part weeks count as full weeks
- you earned £30 a week averaged over any 13 weeks in your test period
Earnings from your employment and earnings you are treated as having if you are self-employed are used to work out your Maternity Allowance.
If you don't qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, you may be able to get Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead. If you have made a claim for Maternity Allowance you do not have to make a separate claim for ESA. The Social Security Agency will automatically check to see if you can get ESA.
If you have a visa that allows you to live and work in the United Kingdom you may be able to get Maternity Allowance. If your visa includes the condition that you have "no recourse to public funds” you may still get Maternity Allowance. You will need to satisfy the qualifying conditions. The qualifying conditions for Maternity Allowance depend on your recent employment and earnings history. Because of this Maternity Allowance does not constitute public funds.
If you or your partner or civil partner are claiming benefits or tax credits you may be able to get a Sure Start Maternity Grant.
More information can be found in the leaflet 'A Guide to Maternity Benefits - NI17A'.
Who isn't eligible?
If you're entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (from any of your employers, even if you have more than one) you won't be eligible for Maternity Allowance.
How much do you get?
Maternity Allowance pays a standard weekly rate of £135.45 or 90 per cent of your average gross weekly earnings (before tax), whichever is the smaller.
Maternity Allowance is paid for a maximum of 39 weeks.
The amount of Maternity Allowance you get depends on your gross average weekly earnings or amount you are treated as earning from your self-employment.
How it Maternity Allowance paid
Maternity Allowance can be paid every two weeks or every four weeks directly into your bank or building society.
The earliest you can get Maternity Allowance is from the 11th week before the week your baby's due. The latest you can get it is from the day following your child's birth.
All benefits, pensions and allowances are paid into an account. This is the safest, most convenient and efficient method of payment.
Effect on benefits or tax credits
Tax credits and Disability Living Allowance are not affected by Maternity Allowance.
But while you're getting Maternity Allowance and any of the following benefits - they may be reduced or stopped:
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Carer's Allowance
- Employment and Support Allowance
- Housing Benefit
- Income Support
- Jobseeker's Allowance will stop
- Employment and Support Allowance - introduction
- Carer's Allowance (caring for someone section)
- Housing Benefit / Rate Relief
How to claim
You can claim MA as soon as you've been pregnant for 26 weeks. To get a claim form (Form MA1) you can call the Social Security Agency on 028 9033 6000 or download one from the nidirect website.
If you're not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay from any of your employers, each of your employers must give you Form SMP1 to send with your MA1 form.
You'll also need to give medical evidence of the date when your baby is due. This is normally on the maternity certificate - form MATB1. This is given to you by your doctor or midwife no earlier than 20 weeks before the week your baby is due.
You'll need to give proof of your earnings. Send in your original payslips. They will be returned to you. If you're self-employed send your Small Earnings Exception certificate or if you are paying Class 2 NICs, HM Revenue and Customs will be asked to confirm your payments are up- to-date.
For more information contact the Social Security Agency.
- Download claim form - Maternity Allowance MA1(do it online section)
- Download claim form - Maternity Allowance MA1 (interactive) (do it online section)
- Social Security Agency (contacts section)
What if your circumstances change?
It's important you tell Incapacity Benefits Branch if your circumstances change.
If you do some work for an employer, or as a self-employed person, before your MA is due to end, you will be able to work for up to ten days without losing any MA. If you work for more than ten days, you will lose MA for the days you work after that.
You must tell Incapacity Benefits Branch about any work you do when you are receiving MA.
Changes that don't affect the payment include:
- going into hospital
- going into a nursing home or residential care
- starting voluntary work
- Incapacity Benefits Branch (contacts section)
- Tell HM Revenue and Customs about a change of income or circumstance
How to Appeal
If you're refused Maternity Allowance or if you have any queries about your payment, you can ask Incapacity Benefits Branch to look again at their decision.
If you're still unhappy with the outcome, you can appeal.
What else you need to know
Each time you get pregnant you must use the expected week of childbirth of your new pregnancy to work out your allowance for that pregnancy.
National Insurance Credits are available for each complete week (Sunday through to Saturday) within your Maternity Allowance period.
If you're unemployed
If you're unemployed in the 11th week before the week your baby is due and you're eligible to get Maternity Allowance, your payments will start then. If your baby is born earlier than this, your MA will start the day after the birth.
If you're employed or self-employed
If your baby arrives before the start of the 11th week before the week your baby is due or before the date your Maternity Allowance was planned to begin, the allowance will start from the day following your child's birth.
If, in the four weeks before the week your baby is due, you're absent from work for a pregnancy-related reason, Maternity Allowance will start the day after the first complete day you were absent from work because of your pregnancy.
If you continue to be employed or self-employed into the 11 weeks before the week your baby is due, you can choose when to start getting Maternity Allowance. The date you choose will match the date that you start your maternity leave from work.
Even if your baby survives only for an instant it is a live birth and you will be entitled to MA if you qualify for it.
If your baby is stillborn earlier than the 24th week of your pregnancy you will not be able to get any MA. You may be able to get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you are still working, or Employment and Support Allowance through Jobcentre Plus.
You are entitled to MA, if your baby is stillborn from the 24th week of your pregnancy. To get payment you must give evidence of the birth to Jobcentre Plus. This will be notification for the registration of a stillbirth from the attending doctor or midwife, or a certificate of stillbirth from the registrar.