If you are planning on starting or expanding a family, the regulations, rights and entitlements governing maternity and paternity as they relate to work can be a minefield to get through and they will burden you with additional pressure you don’t need.

At Asset Resourcing, our consultants make it their business to keep up-to-date with the most recent changes to the law and we can help you with any information you need, anything you’re unsure of and need clarifying, or indeed a friendly voice to talk to for advice and guidance.


There are two types of maternity pay. The benefit you’re entitled to is dependent on how long you’ve worked for your employer but they are both paid for 39 weeks.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

You are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) as long as you started your job at least a week before you became pregnant and you earn over £102 a week before tax in the 2011-12 financial year.

With SMP, you get 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks. After that, you get £128.73 per week for 33 weeks in 2011-12. (If 90% of your average weekly earnings are less than this amount, you'll continue getting 90% of your earnings instead).

Maternity Allowance (MA)

If you’re not entitles to SMP, you will be entitled to Maternity Allowance.

You are entitled to Maternity Allowance (MA) if you have worked for 26 weeks in the last 66 weeks and you earned more than £30/week for 13 of those weeks.

This could be in lots of different chunks or for different employers. It can include self-employed work and you can choose the weeks when you’ve earned the most, combine wages from different jobs, and it can include overtime, bonuses, or sick pay.

Maternity Allowance gives you £128.73 each in 2011-2012 or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is less. You may get an additional amount for your husband, civil partner, or someone else who looks after your children, if that person is on a very low income.

When Can I Take Maternity Leave?

As an employee you have the right to 26 weeks of Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks of Additional Maternity Leave making one year in total. The combined 52 weeks is known as Statutory Maternity Leave (SML).

To qualify SML you must be an employee. If you are an employee and you give your employer the correct notice, you can take SML no matter how long you’ve been with your employer, how many hours you work or how much you get paid.

You must tell your employer you want to take SML at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby is due. If this is not possible (e.g. you didn't realise you were pregnant), tell them as soon as possible.

You can start your SML any time from 11 weeks before the beginning of the week when your baby is due.

If you are off work because of your pregnancy within four weeks of the expected birth date, your employer can make you start your SML then.


When your baby arrives, you can take either one or two weeks off – but you can’t take a week and a half off - you can only chose between taking one week and two weeks and they have to be taken together – as long as you expect to be involved in the raising of your child and you have been in the job since at least a week before your partner became pregnant.

This is called paternity leave and doesn’t count towards your annual leave allocation.

Most dads are entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) as long as they earn more than £102 each week on average in 2011-12. SPP is £128.73 in 2011-12 (or 90% of your average weekly earnings if less).

When Can I Take Paternity Leave?

You can start your leave any time from the first day of the week in which your baby is due, and it must have finished by the time your baby is 56 days old (or, if the baby comes early, by 56 days after the Sunday before the baby was due).

You can choose to start your leave on a particular date, or you can choose the day your baby is born.

Additional Paternity Leave

If your baby is due on or after 3rd April 2011, you will be able to take extra paternity leave if the mother of the child is going to go back to work early. Your baby must be five months old when your additional paternity leave starts.

You will get paid Additional Statutory Paternity Pay (at the same rate) for as long as the baby’s mother would have received Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance if she had not gone back to work.

Are you going back to work after a baby?

Jessica Chivers, The Thinking Woman’s Coach, specialises in helping women get back to work after a baby. Her book ‘Mother Work – How to Get a Grip on Guilt and Make a Smooth Return to Work’ is published in June 2011. Go to www.jessicachivers.com for maternity coaching, workshops and her free ‘flourishing female’ newsletter.

Further reading

ACAS – Maternity Rights - www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1753

ACAS – Paternity Leave & Pay - www.acas.co.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1806

Work & Families - www.direct.gov.uk/en/Parents/Moneyandworkentitlements/WorkAndFamilies/index.htm

Maternity, Paternity & Adoption - www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/layer?r.l1=1073858787&r.s=tl&topicId=1080898061

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