Calculating maternity pay

Last updated: 29 Jun 2021

This article provides an overview of how to calculate your entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and Maternity Allowance (MA). 

For more information on eligibility and answers to frequently asked questions, see our pages on Maternity PayStatutory Maternity Pay, and Maternity Allowance.

An easy and quick way to find out what maternity pay you’re entitled to is to use the Government Calculator.

Sections in this article:

What is my qualifying week?

To start calculating your maternity pay entitlement, the first step is to work out your expected week of childbirth and your qualifying week. These weeks always begins on a Sunday and end on a Saturday.

Your expected week of childbirth is the week of your estimated due date. It begins on the Sunday before your due date, and ends on the Saturday after your due date. If your due date is on a Sunday, your expected week of childbirth begins on the same day.

You can find your estimated due date on your MATB1 certificate, or ask your GP or midwife. It does not matter if you plan have the child earlier or later than your due date (e.g. by caesarean section).

Example
Linda is pregnant, and her estimated due date is Wednesday, 15 December 2021. She plans to have a caesarean section on 1 December 2021.

Linda’s expected week of childbirth begins on Sunday, 12 December and ends on Saturday, 18 December 2021.

Your qualifying week is the 15th week before your estimated week of childbirth. To work our your qualifying week, count 15 weeks back from the first day of your expected week of childbirth.

Example
Linda’s qualifying week begins on Sunday, 29 August and ends on Saturday, 4 September 2021.

How do I calculate Statutory Maternity Pay?

To work out entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you need to check:

  1. Your length of service, and
  2. If you have earned enough in the 8 weeks (or two months) before your qualifying week (the reference period)

1. Have I worked long enough?

To have worked for long enough to get Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), you need to have worked for the same employer continuously for 26 weeks by the end of the qualifying week. This usually means that you became pregnant after you started working with your employer. To calculate this date, count back 26 weeks from the last day of your qualifying week (Saturday).

Example
Linda began her employment on Monday, 1 March 2021. In order to qualify for SMP, Linda needs to have been continuously employed for 26 weeks by the end of her qualifying week. This means that Linda needed to have been employed by Saturday, 13 March 2021, so she will be eligible for SMP if she meets the earnings requirement.

2. Have I earned enough during the reference period?

To be eligible for SMP, your normal weekly earnings cannot be less than the lower earnings limit (£120 per week in 2021/22) for national insurance contributions during the reference period. Earnings are gross and include wages, overtime, commission and bonuses. It can also include Statutory Sick Pay, maternity pay, or any other statutory family pay (e.g., paternity pay, shared parental pay or adoption pay).

The reference period is the eight weeks ending before the end of the qualifying week. For monthly-paid employees, normal earnings are those in the last two pay slips before the end of the qualifying week. For weekly-paid employees, the last eight pay slips before the end of the qualifying week are taken into account. 

If you are paid monthly, you must add together the two payslips, and divide by two. Then multiply by 12 to get an annual figure, which you then divide by 52 to get a weekly figure. 

If you are paid weekly, you add up the total amount paid in the calculation period and divide it by the number of weeks it represents (usually eight).

For the first six weeks, SMP is paid at 90% of your normal earnings in the reference period. For the next 33 weeks, it is paid at the same 90% of your normal earnings or the flat rate, whichever is lower.

Example
Linda is paid monthly on the 26th of each month. If Linda’s qualifying week starts on 29 August and ends on 4 September, she should use two months of payslips on 26 August and 26 July 2021.

In these months, she earned £5,000 gross. She must divide this by two, and then multiply this by 12 to get an annual figure of £30,000. She should then divide by 52 to get a weekly average of £576.92.

Her SMP will be £519.23 per week for the first six weeks, and will then drop to the flat rate for 33 weeks.

How do I calculate Maternity Allowance? 

If you are not entitled to SMP, you could be entitled to Maternity Allowance (MA).

To work out entitlement to MA, you need to determine if you meet the employment and earnings conditions. These they are very different from SMP.

You should check whether:

  1. You have worked for at least 26 weeks (6 months) in the ‘test period’, which is the 66 weeks (15 months) before your expected week of childbirth?
  2. You have earned at least £30 in 13 of those weeks?

1. Have I worked long enough in the test period?

In the 66 weeks (15 months) before the expected week of childbirth, you must have worked, or been treated as working, for 26 weeks (6 months). These weeks do not have to be consecutive or for the same employer. You can mix employed and self-employed work.

The Maternity Allowance claim form has a handy table to help you figure out your test period according to your expected week of childbirth.

Example
Linda is due on Wednesday, 15 December 2021. Her expected week of childbirth begins on Sunday, 12 December and ends on Saturday, 18 December 2021.

To calculate Lina’s test period, count back 66 weeks from Sunday, 12 December. The first day of her test period is Sunday, 6 September 2020, and the last day is Saturday, 11 December 2021.

Let’s pretend that Linda started working for her employer on Monday, 5 April 2021, which means she would not be eligible for SMP. If Linda stays employed for 26 weeks before her expected week of childbirth, she will have worked long enough to qualify for MA.

2. Have you earned enough in the test period?

When you claim MA, you will be asked to provide proof of income for 13 weeks in the test period. During these 13 weeks, you need to have earned at least £30 per week (gross and on average).

If you are employed, you should submit 13 payslips where you have earned the most to maximise your MA.

If you are self-employed, you must have registered as self-employed with HM Revenue & Customs (HRMC). You need to have paid 13 Class 2 NI contributions within the test period. If you do so, you will be treated as having enough earnings to get the flat rate of MA. If you are self-employed and haven’t been paying Class 2 National Insurance, you are treated as having earnings of £30 per week (and will only receive 90% of £30 = £27 per week).

Note: Because Class 2 isn’t paid until the end of the tax year in self-assessment, when you claim MA, you will be given the opportunity to pay Class 2 early if this will help you qualify for the higher rate of MA.

Example
Linda earns £576.92 in gross average weekly earnings for at least 13 weeks during her test period. When she applies for MA, she will qualify for the flat rate.

Linda’s friend Greta has been doing a combination of employed and self-employed work. During her test period, she worked for five weeks as a worker earning £100 gross per week. Then she started a small business. For 25 weeks, she earned £200 gross per week and paid class 2 NI contributions. Greta can qualify for MA on the basis of her self-employed work, for the full flat rate.

Frequently asked questions

I think my employer has calculated my SMP wrong

If you and your employer can’t agree on whether you qualify for SMP or the amount of SMP you should receive, you should double check your calculations using the Government Calculator. Ask your employer to explain their reasoning and their calculations. If your employer thinks you aren’t entitled to SMP at all, they should issue you with an SMP1 form.

If you still can’t agree, you can contact the HRMC Statutory Payment Disputes Team. HMRC has overall responsibility for the administration of statutory payments. Complaints about entitlement must be submitted to HMRC’s Statutory Payments Disputes Team within six months of the issue arising.

Will being on sick leave affect my entitlement to SMP?

Being on sick leave can affect your entitlement to SMP. For SMP, your eligibility and the amount you receive depends on your earnings during the reference period. If your employer offers fully paid sick leave, this is unlikely to affect your eligibility for SMP or the amount due.

However, if your employer offers only partially paid sick leave or you need to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), this may reduce the amount of SMP that you would receive.

If you are on Statutory Sick Pay (currently £95.85 per week) for the whole reference period, you may be ineligible for SMP because your earnings will fall below the lower earnings limit (currently £120 per week).

If you don’t qualify for SMP because you’ve been on Statutory Sick Pay, you may qualify for MA instead.

I’m pregnant again on maternity leave, can I qualify for SMP or MA for my next baby?

Yes, you can. The normal rules for qualifying for SMP will apply for your next maternity leave. If you received SMP during your reference period, you should qualify for SMP again based on the flat rate. If you only earned the flat rate during your entire reference period, you are likely to receive 90% of the flat rate during your next maternity leave.

However, if your reference period falls during the unpaid portion of maternity leave, you may not qualify for SMP if your earnings fall below the lower earnings limit (currently £120 per week on average). In that case, you can qualify for MA and use the 13 weeks you were paid the most during the test period to calculate your rate.

I work for myself and run my own limited company, can I qualify for SMP or do I need to apply for MA?

If you employ yourself through your own limited company, you can be eligible and your company can pay your SMP (as long as you meet the other eligibility requirements).

If you aren’t eligible for SMP based on your employment through your company, then you may still qualify for MA if you meet the eligibility requirements.

Can I register as self-employed in order to qualify for MA?

You should be genuinely engaged in some sort of self-employed work to qualify for MA. There are some exceptions (i.e. If you carry out unpaid work for your self-employed spouse), but this is the general rule.

You may not qualify for MA if you have not been genuinely employed or self-employed during the test period. If, however, you register as self-employed for 26 weeks before your expected week of childbirth, and make NI contributions, you may be able to qualify for MA.

The Notes sheet for the Maternity Allowance claim form states that if you are registered as self-employed for 26 weeks before your due date, then you will be treated as having met the earnings requirement (£30 a week for 13 of the 26 weeks). If you have registered as self-employed and paid 13 Class 2 NI contributions within the test period you will be treated as having enough earnings to get the flat rate.

According to the government guidance, you can register as a sole trader (a way of registering as self-employed) for the purpose of making voluntary NI contributions to help you qualify for benefits. One of these benefits is Maternity Allowance. However, registering as self-employed means that you need to register for self-assessment, submit tax returns every year, and pay income tax. There may be penalties for not doing so. So this should be considered cautiously.

I’m self-employed, but I have not paid any tax. Can I still qualify for MA?

The Notes sheet for the Maternity Allowance claim form states that if you are registered as self-employed for 26 weeks before your due date, then you will be treated as having met the earnings requirement (£30 a week for 13 of the 26 weeks). However, this means you will only receive £27 per week (90% of £30 = £27).

If you have registered as self-employed and paid 13 class 2 NI contributions within the test period you will be treated as having enough earnings to get the flat rate. You can either register for self-assessment, and pay the appropriate tax and NI contributions, or make voluntary class 2 NI contributions in order to qualify for the full flat rate.


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The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.