Statutory Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay

Statutory Maternity Leave


Pregnant employees are entitled to 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave, which is split into 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave.  However, employees do not have to take the full 52 weeks if they don’t want to, but must take a minimum of two weeks after the birth or four weeks if they work in a factory.


The earliest that leave can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth, unless the baby is born early, or if they are off work for a pregnancy related illness in the 4 weeks before the baby is due.


To qualify for maternity leave, the employee must inform her employer at least 15 weeks before the baby is due.


  • That she is pregnant.
  • The expected week of childbirth, by means of a MATB1 certificate.
  • The date she intends to start her maternity leave.


Employment rights when on statutory leave


Your employee’s employment rights are protected whilst they are on Statutory Maternity Leave, including their rights to:


  • Pay rises.
  • Holiday accrual.
  • Return to work.


Further HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) guidance is detailed at


Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)


SMP is payable to eligible employees for up to 39 weeks, the first six weeks being 90% of their Average Weekly Earnings (AWE), and the remaining 33 weeks at £140.98 (2017/18 rate) or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower).


SMP is paid to an employee on their normal payday and is subject to normal tax and National Insurance deductions.


An employer can offer to pay more if they have a company maternity scheme, but must not offer any less than SMP.  You must make sure your maternity leave and maternity pay policies are clear and available to employees.


  • Have been in continuous employment for at least 26 weeks, ending with the 15th week before the expected date of childbirth.
  • Earn at least £113.00 (2017/18 rate) per week gross in the 8 week relevant period.
  • Give you the correct notice.
  • Give you proof that they are pregnant.


An employee can still get both Statutory Maternity Leave and SMP if their baby;

  • Is born early.
  • Is stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy.
  • Dies after being born.




Employees will not be eligible for SMP if:

  • Their average weekly earnings are not high enough.
  • They have not been in your employment long enough.
  • They did not tell you, or provide medical evidence soon enough.
  • They were in legal custody at the beginning of their Maternity Pay Period. If they had been getting SMP, they will stop receiving it when they go into legal custody. It will not restart when they are discharged.
  • They started work for you after the birth.


You can refuse to pay SMP if the employee does not qualify by issuing Form SMP1 within 7 days of your decision.  They must receive Form SSP1 within 28 days of their request for SMP or the birth.


Employees that are not eligible for SMP may be entitled to Maternity Allowance instead.  Further guidance can be found by visiting


Financial Help with Statutory Pay


As an employer you can reclaim a percentage of your employees SMP.  If your business qualifies for Small Employers Relief you can reclaim 103% (100% plus 3% compensation) if your business does not qualify then you will be able to reclaim 92%.  This is offset against your PAYE liability.


If your business will not have enough PAYE liability in order to offset your employees SMP, then you can apply to HMRC for advance funding.


Record Keeping


You must keep records of SMP for HMRC for 3 years including:


  • Proof of pregnancy, normally a MATB1 certificate.
  • SMP payments, including dates.
  • SMP reclaimed.
  • Details of any non-payments, together with a reason.


If you would like to discuss statutory maternity leave and maternity pay in more detail, or you would like to speak with a member of our team, please contact 01772 821021 to be put in contact with a member of our Payroll team.