Whether you are considering having a baby or are already pregnant, it is essential to understand the maternity benefits that you are entitled to claim. Such will benefits will depend on your employment status as well as any prior arrangements you have made. Currently all maternity entitlements are assessed by your position in the 'qualifying week' of your pregnancy which is considered to be the 15th week before your baby is due. This date is used to calculate your maternity benefits and the level of support you can expect to receive.
Whether you have been working with the same company for 15 years or only just started, every woman is entitled to take time off work to have a baby and still retain the right to return to work when they see fit. As long as you provide notice of your pregnancy by your qualifying week, every employed person in the UK is entitled to 52 weeks leave from work to have a baby. This is known as Statutory Maternity Leave. The first half of this leave is known as Ordinary Maternity Leave and during this time your job has to be protected by the company that employs you. If you decide to return to work within these 26 weeks then you are legally entitled to go back to exactly the same role as you left. However if you choose to remain off work for longer than 26 weeks then you will enter Additional Maternity Leave. And though the company must allow you to return to work during this time, the role they provide only has to be the same level of pay and conditions as the job you left. It doesn't have to be exactly the same role.
Who and how much pay you receive during your maternity leave will depend on your employment status during your qualifying week. If you have been employed by the same company for more than 26 weeks before your qualifying week, and earned an average of more than £109 per week, then you should be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay. During the 39 week entitlement, your weekly allowance will be directly related to your previous average earnings. For the first six weeks, your maternity entitlement will be equal to 90% of your average salary. After this time it will drop to either 90% of your average earnings or £136.78, depending on which is lower. This is paid directly by your employer in the same way that your wages have been issued to you in the past. For those that do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave, including those that are self employed, a Maternity Allowance is available. This provides the same level of financial support as the Statutory Maternity Pay but is issued directly by the Government. But take care; only those that have worked for more than 26 weeks during the 66 weeks before the baby is born will qualify for such support, and if you are claiming other benefits they can be also be effected by the value of your maternity allowance.
Enhanced Maternity Pay
For many women, employers will choose to improve a greater level of maternity pay above the statutory minimum. This is known as Enhanced Maternity Pay and is at the discretion of the employer. Such benefits are usually written into your job description when you join and can make a significant difference to your financial position. There is no maximum amount that can be claimed under this benefit and many companies will offer some time at full or discounted salaries, however all payments made under either statutory or enhanced schemes will be subject to the usual Income Tax and National Insurance levels.
The Maternity Grant
Any mother on a low income who is expecting her first child can also claim a £500 stand alone payment from the Government. This payment, known as the Maternity Grant, can be used to cover the costs of buying any necessary baby equipment to prepare for the birth separate from any other benefits received.
For more information on maternity allowance visit this free impartial website.