Knowledge Centre

Statutory Maternity Leave (SML) and Pay (SMP)

Statutory Maternity Leave (SML)

Statutory Maternity Leave: Your Rights and Entitlements

Every employee is entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave, regardless of their tenure with the employer. To initiate this leave, individuals need to provide their employer with a Maternity Certificate (MATB1), which is issued by their Midwife or GP as proof of pregnancy.

Employees can take up to 52 weeks off from work, with the leave period commencing no earlier than 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. While there’s flexibility in choosing the duration of maternity leave, it cannot exceed 52 weeks, and by law, individuals must take at least 2 weeks off following childbirth (4 weeks if engaged in factory work).

Upon completion of Statutory Maternity Leave, individuals have the right to return to work with the same pay and contract. Throughout the maternity leave period, employees accrue holiday entitlements, and their pay is protected, including considerations for pay raises, ensuring a smooth transition back to the workplace.

Statutory Maternity Pay and Leave (SMP) (MFJ023)

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

Statutory maternity pay is the minimum that an employer is required to pay an employee on maternity leave if they are eligible.

Who is eligible?

To be eligible you must have been working for your employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected week of the birth, as well as earn above the Lower Earnings Limit stipulated by government (2024/25 at least £123 a week).

How is it paid?

Maternity pay is paid up to week 39 of the taken leave and the last 13 weeks will be unpaid. Tax and national insurance must still be deducted from Maternity Pay.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. Eligible employees will receive:

  • 90% of average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £184.03 (2024/25) or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.

How is 90% calculated?

It is important to note that 90% of average weekly earnings is not 90% of an employee’s annual salary or 90% of an employee’s normal net pay for the last 8 weeks.

Statutory Maternity Pay is set out in lay and follows strict formula.

90% of average weekly earnings will be determined from the ‘Qualifying Week’ and ‘Relevant Period’

Qualifying Week is the week, 15 weeks before expected week of childbirth.

Relevant Period is the 8 weeks prior to the Qualifying Week.

There are a few other nuances around what exactly determines the qualifying week not explained in this guide.

Therefore, if an employee’s earnings were lower during the 8 week ‘Relevant Period’ their 90% will be affected.  Alternatively, if an employee received a bonus or worked overtime their 90% could be greater than their typical weekly pay.

Recovering employer costs for SMP

Employers are only liable to pay 8% of statutory maternity pay and they can reclaim the remainder 92% from HMRC.

Small employers (National Insurance Bill is no more than £45,000 per annum) – (figures as @ 2023/24) can reclaim 103% of their SMP bill from HMRC.

To read the full guide for Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay visit the GOV.UK website.