Guide

Maternity leave and pay

Maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks and usually covers the first 39 weeks of an employee's maternity leave.

Eligibility for SMP

To be eligible for SMP, a pregnant employee must meet certain qualifying conditions.

For more information, see statutory maternity pay and leave.

The meaning of the term 'employee' for SMP purposes is different to the meaning for statutory maternity leave (SML) and other employment rights. This means that some workers who are not employees, eg agency workers, may qualify for SMP, even though they don't qualify for SML.

SMP rates and recovery

For the first six weeks you must pay your employee SMP a weekly rate equal to 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings (AWE).

For the next 33 weeks you must pay them the lower of the following:

  • £140.98
  • 90 per cent of their AWE

You can recover some or all of your SMP payments from HMRC - the proportion you can recover depends on the size of your annual NICs liability.

Read more on statutory maternity pay and leave.

Enhanced maternity pay

If you wish, you can offer enhanced maternity pay arrangements to attract and retain employees. For example, you could:

  • pay more than SMP over a certain period, eg full pay for the first six weeks, half pay for the next ten weeks, SMP for the remaining 23 weeks
  • make a bonus payment on the employee's return to work

You could change the qualification criteria for these enhancements, eg the employee needs a year's continuous service.

You can offer these arrangements either as a contractual right or on a discretionary, case-by-case basis, but use caution when exercising discretion to avoid claims of unfair treatment or discrimination.

You can still recover from HMRC the SMP portion of any enhanced maternity pay.