Statutory Maternity Pay UK

What is the maternity leave entitlement for an employee who has been with us for less than a year

Regardless of how short a time she may have worked for you, your employee is entitled to 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave. This will normally be paid leave.

Your employee can choose to take a further 26 weeks additional maternity leave running straight on from the ordinary leave and so making a break of up to 52 weeks altogether. The additional maternity leave will usually be unpaid unless the terms of employment specify otherwise.

The employee must normally tell you by the end of the fifteenth week before the expected week of childbirth that she intends to take leave. She can then take the full 52 weeks without giving you any further notice. However, if she wants to come back to work early, she must give you 28 days notice of her intention.

If your employee is off work sick during the four weeks before the start of the expected week of childbirth, her leave will be deemed to have started automatically. Otherwise, it starts when the employee chooses, provided this is no earlier than the beginning of the eleventh week before the baby is due.

During her leave, the employee's pension and other employment rights may be protected, though this depends on the terms of the contract. She has the right to return to work at the end of her leave – normally to the same job she had before her leave started.

UK Maternity Pay rules

You must normally pay statutory maternity pay (SMP) to an employee who is on ordinary maternity leave (but not additionally maternity leave) even if she is not going to return to you after the birth of her child. SMP is payable throughout the ordinary leave, in other words for a maximum of 26 weeks. You pay SMP if your employee:

The amount of SMP is 90 per cent of average earnings for the first six weeks of the period. Thereafter, it is £106 a week (or 90 per cent of weekly average earnings if this average is less).

You can claim back some or all of the SMP that you pay out. You get the relief by deducting it from the tax, National Insurance contributions and other PAYE deductions you would otherwise hand over to HMRC. If the amount you must pay out to employees exceeds the PAYE deductions you've collected, apply to HMRC for advance funding. You can recover the SMP you pay out in full if the employer's and employees' National Insurance comes to more than a set amount, which is £45,000 (2017/18 figures). If the National Insurance comes to more, you claim back 92 per cent of the sum you pay out (and have to fund the remaining 8 per cent yourself).

See also: The right to return to work after maternity leave