Last updated: 8 Jun 2023
*If you are on this page because you are experiencing delays to the processing of your MA claim, you can contact the DWP Maternity Allowance team on: 0800 169 0283 (telephone); 0800 169 0286 (textphone)*
When you are employed or self-employed, and take time off to have a baby, you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance (MA). If you are employed, you may be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and your employer may also offer enhanced maternity pay (sometimes called ‘occupational’ or ‘contractual’ maternity pay).
This article provides an detailed breakdown of Maternity Allowance, eligibility requirements, how much you can expect to receive, and where to go for more information. An easy and quick way to find out what maternity pay you are entitled to is to use the Government Calculator.
This article covers:
- What is Maternity Allowance?
- Am I eligible for Maternity Allowance?
- How much is Maternity Allowance?
- Frequently asked questions about Maternity Allowance
What is Maternity Allowance?
Maternity Allowance (MA) is a benefit for women who are working, or have worked recently, but who do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).
You might get MA if:
- you are employed , but not eligible for SMP
- you are registered self-employed and paying Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs), or hold a Small Earnings Exception certificate
- you have recently been employed or self-employed
- you are not employed or self-employed, but you regularly take part in the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner
If you qualify for it, MA is paid by Jobcentre Plus directly to you. MA can be paid for up to 39 weeks. If you are not employed or self-employed but you take part in the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner you may be able to get MA for 14 weeks.
You cannot get it in addition to SMP, and it could affect any other benefits you claim, such as Universal Credit or Tax Credits. The amount you get depends on your eligibility.
Am I eligible for Maternity Allowance?
To qualify for MA on the basis of paid work, you have to satisfy two rules:
- the employment rule
- the earnings rule
You have to satisfy these rules in a test period. The test period is the period of 66 weeks up to and including the week before the week your baby is due (your expected week of childbirth). For more on how to calculate your test period, see our article on Calculating maternity pay.
To get MA you must not be eligible for SMP from any employer.
The employment rule
You must have been employed and/or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in your 66 week test period.
The 26 weeks do not have to be in a row and it does not matter how much you earn. You do not have to be physically at work to be employed or self-employed; you might be off work sick or have been on Statutory Maternity Leave for an earlier pregnancy, for example.
If you are self-employed, you must be registered with HMRC. If you do not register or you register late, you may not qualify for MA. If you were employed in the 15th week before your baby is due, you will need form SMP1 from your employer which sets out why you do not qualify for SMP.
The earnings rule
Your earnings, on average, be at least £30 a week (gross). If you have more than one employer, all earnings will count when working out the average. Your earnings are averaged over any 13 weeks in your test period. The 13 weeks do not have to be in a row and you may choose the weeks with the most earnings to help you get more MA.
You can also qualify for MA for 14 weeks on the basis of unpaid work.
How much is Maternity Allowance?
If you qualify on the basis of paid work: MA is paid at either 90 % of average earnings or the flat rate (whichever is lower) for 39 weeks. In April 2023-2024, the flat rate is £172.48 per week.
If you are employed, to work out average gross weekly earnings, DWP will add together your gross earnings from the 13 weeks in the test period that you’ve earned the most, and divide by 13. To prove your earnings, they will ask you for 13 original payslips (if paid weekly) or 4 payslips (if paid monthly).
If you are self-employed, if you are registered with HRMC for at least 26 weeks in the test period, your earnings from self-employment are assumed to be either £30 a week or £168 a week, depending on whether you’ve paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NICs) for those weeks. If you could have paid Class 2 NICs but haven’t, you will get £27 a week, but if you have paid you will get the flat rate.
You can pay Class 2 NICs early and on a voluntary basis in order to get the the flat rate. You can add earnings from different jobs, and from employment and self-employment, together in order to qualify for the flat rate.
Please Note that depending on your income the amount of voluntary Class 2 NICs you need to make may differ to others . Please click here to check the income thresholds and the affect this has on the voluntary Class 2 NICs you may need to make.
If you qualify on the basis of unpaid work: you will receive £27 per week for 14 weeks only.
An easy and quick way to find out what MA you are entitled to is to use the Government Calculator, or you can read our article on Calculating maternity pay.
How to claim Maternity Allowance
You can download a MA Claim Form to apply with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
You will need to provide a certificate from your midwife giving the expected date of birth of your child (a form MAT B1) and other supporting evidence.
If you are (or have recently been) employed but that your employer or ex-employer has decided you are not entitled to SMP, it should give you form SMP1 explaining why and you should send it to the DWP to support your claim.
When should I claim?
The earliest you claim will be accepted is the 15th week before your baby is due (around week 26 of your pregnancy). Payments can start up to 11 weeks before the baby is due, and you can choose when your leave and pay should start.
Do not wait for too long to claim MA. You may be able to backdate your claim for up to 3 months under certain conditions but you risk losing out if you are late.
Frequently asked questions
Below are some of the most common questions we get on our helpline about Maternity Allowance (MA).
I’m self-employed as a director of my own limited company
If you own a limited company and pay yourself a salary through PAYE from the company, you should qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) as an employee, provided you meet the usual test. If you do not qualify for SMP through your limited company, you can issue yourself and SMP1 form and apply for MA as an employed person.
You can call the HMRC employer’s helpline to find out more about how pay yourself SMP.
How do I prove self-employment income?
When you apply for MA, DWP will check if you are registered with HRMC for at least 26 weeks in the test period. If you were, then your earnings from self-employment are assumed to be either £30 a week or £168 a week, depending on whether you’ve paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NICs) for those weeks.
If you haven’t paid Class 2 NICs, you will get £27 a week. If you have paid Class 2 NICs, for instance through self-assessment, but if you have paid you will get the flat rate.
You can pay Class 2 NICs early and on a voluntary basis in order to get the the flat rate. If DWP thinks that you haven’t paid enough Class 2 NICs during your test period, they will contact HRMC who will offer you an opportunity to pay the contributions.
For more information on how to pay NICs early or on a voluntary basis, contact the National Insurance helpline.
I am both employed and self-employed income
Great, you can add earnings from different jobs, and from employment and self-employment, together in order to qualify for the flat rate. Indicate on your MA Claim Form that you are both employed and self-employed, and submit evidence of earnings from the 13 weeks in your test period that you have earned the most.
Can I claim Universal Credit while on MA?
You may be able to claim Universal Credit to top up your income during your maternity pay period or if you take unpaid maternity or parental leave. Eligibility for Universal Credit will depend on your family income and circumstances. For more information, see our article on Universal Credit (UC).
If you are on a benefit that UC replaces, you should get further advice before claiming UC because claiming UC could make you worse off. These are Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-related Employment Support Allowance and income-based Jobseekers Allowance.
If you already have a tax credits award you may be entitled to more help if you have a new baby or during your maternity pay period.
What if I’m not eligible for MA?
If you are not eligible for SMP or MA, you may be eligible for a number of maternity benefits. These benefits include Universal Credit and/or Employment Support Allowance. If you already have a tax credits award you may be entitled to more help if you have a new baby or during your maternity pay period.
For more information, see our detailed article on Can I claim benefits if I take parental leave, maternity leave, paternity leave, parental bereavement leave or shared parental leave?
I’m not a UK citizen and/or I have no recourse to public funds
You do not need to be a UK citizen to claim MA, and MA is not considered public funds. Therefore, if you are not a citizen and you are subject to immigration controls or a ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition, you can still claim MA as long as you are eligible.
My claim has been refused or I have been disqualified
If your claim is refused, or you are disqualified from claiming, you have one month to request a mandatory reconsideration of the decision. This is usually done in writing to the address on the decision letter.
If the reconsideration request is refused you can appeal to the Social Security and Child Support Tribunal. The time limit for an appeal is one month after the date of the reconsideration decision notice.
If this happens to you, you should seek advice before appealing.
This advice applies in England, Wales and Scotland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details. If you are in Northern Ireland you can visit the Labour Relations Agency or call their helpline Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.
If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.
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.
We cannot provide advice on employment rights in Northern Ireland as the law is different. You can visit the Labour Relations Agency or call their helpline Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300.