Maternity allowance and maternity pay explained

We explain the difference between maternity allowance and pay, to help you understand what you qualify for and how to claim it.

What are you entitled to?

Having a baby is fabulous news, but it can be expensive. Not only do you have to shell out for all the things you’ll need to look after the baby when he or she arrives, but you’ll also need to take some time off work.

All employees are entitled to 52 weeks maternity leave, and most can qualify for 39 weeks’ statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.

Statutory maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay is the minimum an employer can pay you in those 39 weeks. You qualify for statutory maternity pay if:

  • You hand in the correct notice to your employer (including a letter from a doctor or a MATB1 certificate)
  • Your average weekly pay before tax is £118 or more
  • You were employed by your current employer continuously for six months until 15 weeks before your due date

How much is statutory maternity pay?

Statutory maternity pay is 90% of your weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks, followed by £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

First six weeks Following 33 weeks
90% of your weekly earnings before tax £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)

Payments typically start when you take maternity leave, and start automatically if you’re off work with pregnancy-related illness up to four weeks before you are due.

Maternity allowance

If you’re self-employed, have been in your job for less than six months or earn less than £120 a week, you won’t be able to claim statutory maternity pay. But you might be entitled to maternity allowance.

Do I qualify for maternity allowance?

To qualify for a maternity allowance you need to have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks of the 66 weeks leading up to your due date.

Any paid work you’ve done in a week is counted as one full week towards the 66 weeks. This is the case even if you only worked for one day during that week.

During the 66 weeks you must have earned at least £30 per week for 13 of those weeks. It makes sense to choose your highest-earning 13 weeks as they are used to determine how much maternity allowance you are entitled to.

How much maternity allowance will I get?

How much you’ll get depends on how much you earn.

If you’re employed or self-employed you could be entitled to 39 weeks of maternity allowance. If so you’ll receive £151.20 or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings - whichever is the lowest.

In the 66 weeks before your baby is due you must have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks and earning £30 a week or more in at least 13 of those weeks. If you’ve recently stopped working you may still qualify.

If you’re self-employed you must have paid Class 2 National Insurance for at least 13 of the 66 weeks.

If you’re not employed or self-employed but you’re married or in a civil partnership you could still qualify for 14 weeks of maternity allowance.

How to apply for maternity allowance

You’ll need to get your hands on a MA1 form, which you can download from the UK government website. You can claim for this as soon as you reach your 26th week of pregnancy.

With your claim form you will need to supply:

  • Original payslips
  • Proof of the baby’s due date (such as a letter from a medical professional or your MATB1 certificate)
  • Your SMP1 form (if you were refused statutory maternity pay by your employer they can provide this)

When will I receive maternity allowance?

The earliest you can get paid maternity allowance is 11 weeks before your baby is due, and the latest is from the day of your baby’s birth.

It’s tax-free and paid every two or four weeks. It won’t affect your tax credits but could affect how much you get in universal credit, jobseekers allowance, housing benefit and council tax reduction.

Useful links

Find more comprehensive information by visiting the UK government website:

Our Baby Budget Calculator will help you plan your finances, and our Child Benefits Guide will help you to see if you’re eligible for any additional benefits.

Note: We take care to ensure Talking Finance content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions.

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