Maternity pay starts as soon as your employee starts maternity leave.
Pay set out in the employment contract
The employee's contract should state:
- how much pay they get when on maternity leave
- how long they get this pay for
Pay set out in the employment contract is known as 'enhanced' or 'contractual' maternity pay, if it's more than statutory (legal minimum) maternity pay.
Offering enhanced maternity pay can help your business attract and keep the best employees.
The legal minimum for maternity pay
If your business does not offer enhanced maternity pay, it must pay statutory maternity pay.
During the first 6 weeks of maternity leave
Pay them 90% of their average weekly earnings.
During the next 33 weeks of maternity leave
Pay whichever of these is lower:
- £172.48 a week
- 90% of their average weekly earnings
Unless the contract says otherwise, you do not have to provide maternity pay after this period has ended.
Someone who's legally classed as an employee is eligible for statutory maternity pay if both of the following apply:
- they've worked continuously for your organisation for at least 26 weeks, ending with the 15th week before the week the baby is due
- their average weekly earnings are at least £123 a week, up to the end of the 15th week before the baby is due
Someone who's legally classed as a worker might also be eligible for statutory maternity pay.
If an employer offers enhanced maternity pay, it must always be higher than statutory maternity pay.
Calculating statutory maternity pay
If they're not entitled to statutory maternity pay
If the employee is not entitled to statutory maternity pay, you must give them the 'SMP1' form within 7 days of your decision.
A pregnant employee or worker might be eligible for Maternity Allowance, if they cannot get enhanced maternity pay or statutory maternity pay.
Maternity Allowance is paid by the government. It lasts for up to 39 weeks.
You must keep records of statutory maternity pay payments. You can find out more about:
Repayment if someone does not return to work after maternity leave
If your employee does not return to work after maternity leave, they might have to repay maternity pay. This depends on the type of pay and what their contract says.
They do not return to work and have taken statutory maternity pay
The employee does not need to repay any statutory maternity pay they've taken.
They do not return to work and have taken enhanced maternity pay
The employee must repay some or all of their enhanced maternity pay if the written terms of their employment say so.
If this money does need to be repaid:
- the written terms must be clear about the circumstances
- you should remind the employee informally about this repayment, for example in any regular meetings you have with them, before they start getting this money
Questions about statutory maternity pay
You can call the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) helpline if:
- you and someone else disagree about how much statutory maternity pay they should get, or for how long
- you cannot pay it, for example because you're insolvent
The law on discrimination
By law, an employee is protected against discrimination from the start of their pregnancy until they either:
- end maternity leave
- return to work
- leave their job
The employee is protected against discrimination resulting from:
- their pregnancy
- illness related to their pregnancy, including related absence they take or plan to take
- maternity pay they take or plan to take
- the employer not wanting them to return to work because they’re breastfeeding