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Diana Zagorodnya

Maternity and paternity rights explained


Confused about what employment rights you're entitled to as a new parent? Here’s all you need to know if you're expecting.

 pregnant woman

If you’re a new parent, it can be tricky managing that work-life balance.

So it’s important to know exactly what you’re entitled to when you go on parental leave, and what help is available to you once your little one is born.

How much is statutory maternity pay?

You’re entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if you’ve been with your current employer for at least 26 weeks by the time you’re 15 weeks before your official due date.

To be eligible, you'll also have to earn more than £112 a week.

Statutory maternity leave runs for 52 weeks and is made up of:

  • ordinary maternity leave – week 1-26

  • additional maternity leave – week 27-52

While you’re entitled to 52 weeks off work, you’ll only receive maternity pay for 39 of them.

Of these 39 weeks, pay is calculated at 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, then up to £139.58 (in 2015-2016) for the remaining 33 weeks.

You’ll need to tell your employer at least 28 days before the date you wish to start claiming. The earliest you can take it is 11 weeks before your baby’s due.

The GOV.UK website has an online tool that helps you calculate your leave, pay entitlement, and give you guidance on maternity rights.

How much is maternity allowance?

 baby shoes on belly

If you’re self-employed, haven’t been working for your employer long enough, or if your average pay is less than £112 a week, you won’t be able to claim statutory pay.

Instead, you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance, and the amount you get will depend on your eligibility.

Company maternity pay scheme

The amount you get from your employer depends on whether the company has its own maternity pay scheme.

Check with your HR department for the exact details, but some companies pay your full salary for the first six weeks of maternity leave and offer extras after that.

How much is paternity leave?

For all those expectant fathers, when your other half’s having a baby, adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogacy agreement, you might be eligible for paternity pay.

If you qualify, you could get one or two weeks' paternity leave, which is £139.58 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings.

You may also be eligible for additional paternity leave of up to 26 weeks, if your child was due or placed for adoption before 5 April 2015, and if your partner returns to work.

What is shared parental leave?

 mother and child holding hands

If your baby is due or has been placed for adoption on or before 5 April 2015, you may be eligible for shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay.

This allows you to share up to 50 weeks' parental leave and 37 weeks' pay with your partner.

Find out more about shared parental leave by visiting GOV.UK.

What other benefits could I receive?

Once your baby’s born, you might be entitled to child tax credits if you work, but it’ll depend on how many children you have as well as your household income.

Any parent with children under the age of 16 will be eligible to receive child benefit. This gives £20.70 a week for your eldest child and £13.70 for each child after that.

If you're already receiving benefit or you’re pregnant and under 18, you could qualify for Healthy Start vouchers, worth £3.10 a week. These can be used to buy milk, fruit and veg.

If you want to do more to make the most of what you get, find out what you could do to save pennies once you’ve had your little one.

Does maternity leave affect your mortgage?

Being on maternity leave could make a difference to your ability to get a new mortgage but a lot will depend on your lender's approach.

Lenders differ in their attitudes to how they view maternity leave - they'll want to assess your income to ensure you don't borrow more than you can afford to repay.

It's best to speak to the lender directly to see if it will affect you in any way.