The maternity allowance is a financial benefit for pregnant women who are self-employed, who are working but do not qualify for statutory maternity pay (SMP) or who have recently stopped working. The maternity allowance is paid directly by the Department for Work and Pensions for up to 39 weeks for qualifying applicants. An application must be made for the maternity allowance using the Department for Work and Pensions – Maternity Allowance claim form (MA1).
The amount of maternity allowance payable (if any) depends on eligibility. It can range from £145.18 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less) for 39 weeks, £27 a week for 39 weeks or £27 a week for 14 weeks.
If you are self-employed you must have paid Class 2 National Insurance for at least 13 of the 66 weeks before your baby is due in order to get the full amount of maternity allowance. If you haven’t paid Class 2 National Insurance, you will receive just £27 a week for 39 weeks assuming all the other eligibility conditions are met. You may be able to make extra National Insurance payments to qualify for the higher rate.
If you are an employee (and don’t qualify for the SMP) you may be able to get the maternity allowance if in the 66 weeks before your baby is due you were:
- employed for at least 26 weeks
- earning £30 or more a week for at least 13 of those weeks – they don’t have to be together
SMP on the other hand is a weekly payment payable to qualifying employees by their employer at:
- 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings (AWE) for the first 6 weeks with no upper limit
- £145.18 (for 2018-19) or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower) for the remaining 33 weeks
Your employer may also offer further additional benefits which includes higher maternity payments, however this is at their discretion and is not legally required.