SMP - eligibility

You may be able to claim Statutory Maternity Pay from your employer before and after the birth of your baby. This is a weekly payment, payable for a period of up to 39 weeks.

Who can get Statutory Maternity Pay

To qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), you must satisfy two rules:

  • the continuous employment rule
  • the earnings rule

The continuous employment rule

To satisfy the continuous employment rule you must have been employed by your employer for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks into the qualifying week.

The qualifying week is the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due.

This period must include at least one day's employment in the qualifying week.

Although continuous employment usually means employment by the same employer without a break, there are some circumstances when breaks in employment can be disregarded. The employment rule may be modified slightly if your baby is born prematurely.

If you are employed by an agency

If you are employed by an agency, in each of the 26 weeks into the qualifying week, you will satisfy the continuous employment rule. If you did some work during any week it counts as a full week. There may be some weeks when you did no work for the agency. This does not mean that you may not satisfy the employment rule.

If you have more than one employer

If you have more than one job, you may be able to get SMP from each employer.

If you change employer

If you change jobs during your pregnancy, you are unlikely to be able to meet the continuous employment rule. But there are circumstances when your employment can be treated as continuous, even if your employer changes.

The earnings rule

To qualify for SMP, you must have been earning on average an amount which at least equals the lower earnings limit which applies on the Saturday at the end of your qualifying week.

The lower earnings limit (LEL) is the amount you have to earn before you are treated as paying National Insurance contributions.

This is £116 a week if the end of your qualifying week is in the 2018-2019 tax year

If you satisfy both the continuous employment rule and the earnings rule, your employer must pay you SMP. They must pay you SMP even if your contract ends at any time after the start of the 15th week before the week your baby is due.

There are no age limits to qualify for SMP. For example, if you are under 16 and satisfy the rules you can qualify for SMP from your employer.

Your Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC)

The important date for working out if you can get SMP and how much you can get is the date your baby is due, not when your baby is actually born.

The week in which your baby is due is called the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC).

Each time you get pregnant you must use the date your baby is due to work out your SMP for that pregnancy.

If your employer can't pay you SMP

If your employer can't pay you SMP they must:

  • give you form SMP1 that explains why
  • give you back your copy of the maternity certificate (MAT B1) that you will have given them

You may be able to claim Maternity Allowance (MA) instead. If you want to claim MA you'll need to complete an SMP1 form and send this to your local Jobs and Benefits office along with your MA claim form.

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