Claiming maternity pay

How to claim maternity pay

Once you have identified the type of maternity pay to which you are entitled, you’ll now need to know how to claim maternity pay. There are various actions you’ll need to take and information you’ll need to provide to claim your full entitlement.

We will now take a look at the information and actions required, as well as what to do if your employer is not fulfilling their obligations.

Securing statutory maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay is the most common type of financial assistance for those who fall pregnant while in employment. There are three basic steps you need to complete in order to claim your statutory maternity payments:-

  • Inform your employer that you are pregnant
  • Provide written confirmation from your GP/midwife a minimum 15 weeks prior to your due date
  • Provide at least 28 days’ notice to your employer, with details of when you want your maternity pay to begin

Even though we have highlighted these actions separately, they can all be carried out simultaneously. We will also do a quick recap on the level of statutory maternity pay you should expect.

Calculating your statutory maternity pay

There are specific calculations regarding statutory maternity pay. The statutory period lasts up to 39 weeks where your income will be as follows:-

  • Six weeks on 90% of your average weekly pay (before tax)
  • 33 weeks on the lesser of £151.20 a week, or 90% of your average weekly pay (before tax)

This calculation could include sick pay, holiday pay, back pay, bonuses and statutory maternity leave from a previous pregnancy. In the current environment, it is important to note that those on furlough will see their average income calculated on their regular pay – not there furlough receipts. Tax and national insurance is still payable on your maternity pay at the relevant rates.

For example:-

If your average weekly income was £400 then you would receive £360 of statutory maternity pay for the first six weeks. Statutory maternity pay for the following 33 weeks would be £151.20.

Those earning an average of £120 a week (the lowest weekly payment on which you will be eligible for statutory maternity pay) would receive £108 a week for the full 39 weeks.

Rate of statutory maternity pay

At the moment, the level of statutory maternity pay is £151.20. However, as we mentioned above, depending upon your average weekly wage, you may receive a lower figure.

Informing your employer that you’re pregnant

Before we look at the process of how to claim maternity pay and informing your employer of your pregnancy, it is very important to note that you have a number of protective rights in the workplace during your pregnancy. It is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you in any way, shape or form as a consequence of your pregnancy or maternity leave.

While many people will inform their employer after their 12 week scan, from a legal standpoint you don’t need to tell your employer until 15 weeks prior to your due date. It is also important to ensure that communication with your employer creates a virtual or real paper trail. This helps to avoid any misunderstandings further down the line, and can prove extremely useful if your employer refuses to fulfil their statutory obligations.

As a direct consequence of your pregnancy, your employer is not allowed to:-

  • Sack you
  • Cut your hours
  • Reduce your pay
  • Change your working practices

On occasion, we have seen some employers sacking those who announced they are pregnant, as a means of avoiding statutory maternity pay. In this scenario, as long as you have been in employment with the company for a minimum of eight weeks you will still be entitled to statutory maternity pay. It is extremely important that you are aware of your rights and obligations when it comes to pregnancy, and communicating with your employer.

Paper trail confirming pregnancy and due date

As suggested above, it is very important to have a virtual/real paper trail covering your request for maternity leave. Carrying on from this, prior to 15 weeks from your due date you will need to provide one of the following to your employer:-

  • A letter from your doctor/midwife confirming your pregnancy and estimated due date
  • A maternity certificate supplied by your midwife/GP after your 20 week scan – referred to as a MATB1 form

Once the paperwork has been sorted, and your employer informed, it is time to relax and enjoy your pregnancy!

Securing contractual maternity pay

Contractual maternity pay and statutory maternity pay are very different. The statutory element is the minimum that your employer is obliged to pay you during your maternity leave. Some employers now pay an additional contractual maternity element, which is over and above the statutory maternity pay. You will find details of any contractual maternity pay:-

  • In your employment contract
  • As part of a separate company maternity policy

It is probably easier to contact your HR department, or the relevant contact in a smaller company, to see exactly where you stand. You may also find that there are conditions attached to your maternity pay with the main one tending to be:-

  • Repayment of part/all of contractual maternity payment element if you fail to return to work

On the surface this may seem a little harsh. However, if you take a step back and look at it from a distance, the contractual element of your maternity pay is an investment by your employer in your future with the company. So, if you fail to return to the company it is only fair this element of your payment is returned.

For clarity, as soon as you are eligible to claim statutory maternity pay, this cannot be taken back from you or reduced. Your rights regarding how to claim statutory maternity pay are set in stone; your rights regarding contractual maternity pay are set by your employer. There is a big difference.

Securing maternity allowance

The issue of securing maternity allowance payments is a reality for many people, if they are ineligible for statutory maternity pay and there is no contractual maternity element in their employment contract. The following UK government website link has all of the relevant documentation to apply for maternity allowance payments:-

Some people are forced to apply for maternity allowance payments if their employer refuses to pay statutory maternity pay. If this is the case, you will need to provide a SMP1 form to confirm that your employer is refusing to pay statutory maternity pay. This document should be sent with your application.

What is a SMP1 form?

This is a form which your employer is obliged to complete if they are refusing to pay you statutory maternity pay. Where you believe you are eligible, but your employer believes you are ineligible, HMRC will review the case. Your employer is obliged to provide you with a SMP1 form within:-

  • Seven days of confirming they are unwilling to pay you maternity pay
  • 28 days from when you inform them you will be taking maternity leave

Again, maintaining a virtual/real paper trail is very important, especially when there are issues and disagreements. If you do have a dispute with your employer, demonstrating to HMRC that you have attempted to obtain a SMP1 form will certainly go in your favour.

In reality, the scenario regarding eligibility for statutory maternity pay is on the whole relatively straightforward. It is also important to remember this is a legal obligation placed on your employer by the government – not optional.

Lodging a complaint with HMRC

If you believe you are eligible to claim statutory maternity pay, but your employer believes otherwise, you should approach HMRC with all details of your case. Initially you will need to demonstrate why you believe you are eligible for statutory maternity pay. Raising a dispute with HMRC is time-barred; you will need to get in touch with them within six months from when you were informed that your employer was unwilling to pay you statutory maternity pay.

The SMP1 form is a formal acknowledgement from your employer that they are unwilling to pay statutory maternity pay. After lodging a complaint, HMRC will take on board your arguments and contact your employer with their reading of the situation. HMRC does have the legal capacity to make a formal ruling and force your employer to make statutory maternity payments.

Appealing an HMRC decision

On occasion, HMRC may rule that you were not entitled to claim statutory maternity pay. You do have the right to appeal if you believe this decision is wrong, further evidence has emerged or something has changed in your case. It is imperative that you take advice before even approaching HMRC with your initial concerns.

When it comes to an appeal, it is important to present the additional information or highlight mistakes in the correct manner. Again, this is where professional advice could be priceless!

Fighting for what you are due

There are very strict and very detailed regulations regarding statutory maternity pay and who is eligible. While the majority of cases are relatively straightforward, we have seen instances where employers have refused to fulfil their legal obligations. In years gone by, many employees would simply have walked away but the regulatory framework has changed significantly in recent times.

In the event that your employer is refusing to pay, HMRC will take up the case on your behalf, as long as you supply the relevant evidence. As we know, HMRC provides lots of information on how to claim maternity pay and have a very strong voice and extended legal powers in the business community.