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Maternity Allowance: The Best Alternative To Statutory Maternity Pay

By IntFormalities
Updated on February 12, 2024
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Welcoming a new life is a profound moment that comes with its share of responsibilities, including understanding the support available to you. In the UK, maternity allowance stands as a financial pillar for expectant mothers who might not be eligible for standard maternity pay. Let’s explore how to secure this vital benefit, detailing who qualifies, the application steps, and answering key questions to ensure you’re well-prepared for this chapter in your life.

How To Claim Maternity Allowance in the UK
Maternity Allowance is a benefit payable to women who are not entitled to statutory maternity pay

What Is Maternity Allowance?

Maternity Allowance is a financial benefit for pregnant women in the UK who aren’t eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). If you’re employed but can’t get SMP, self-employed, have recently stopped working, or do unpaid work for your spouse or civil partner’s business, Maternity Allowance could be for you.

Who Qualifies for Maternity Allowance?

Maternity allowance eligibility hinges on your employment status and history. To qualify, you need to fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Employed but not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) because you haven’t been with your employer long enough, or your earnings aren’t high enough to qualify for SMP.
  • Self-employed who have paid Class 2 National Insurance contributions. Those who qualify for the Small Earnings Exception can also apply for self-employed maternity allowance. This ensures that women who run their own businesses aren’t left without support during maternity leave.
  • Recently stopped working
  • Unpaid work for a spouse or civil partner’s business

What Is the Maternity Allowance Test Period?

The test period refers to the 66 weeks before your baby’s due date. To apply for maternity allowance, the number of days and your average earnings during the test period are examined to determine whether you can qualify for this benefit.

To claim maternity allowance as an employed person, you must have been employed for at least 26 weeks during this time and earned an average of £30 a week over any 13-week period. In the case of the self-employed, they must have been registered as self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the baby’s due date to receive Maternity Allowance.

Are you unsure of what dates you should consider as part of the test period? Check this online Test period calculator to figure out the exact dates you should consider.

How Much Is Maternity Allowance?

The amount you can expect to receive as part of your maternity allowance payments depends on your employment status and whether you fulfil the requirements for this benefit. Some mothers may receive 90% of their average weekly earnings up to £172.48 for 39 weeks, whereas others may only qualify for a fixed amount of £27 a week for either 39 or 14 weeks, depending on personal circumstances.

In the chart below, you can find out how much maternity allowance you can receive:

Employment StatusWeekly PaymentDurationConditionsNI ContributionsFull Allowance ConditionsNotes
Employed or Stopped Working Recently£172.48 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)39 weeksFull statutory maternity leave is 52 weeks (13 weeks unpaid)N/AN/AN/A
Self-EmploymentBetween £27 and £172.48 a weekUp to 39 weeksMust have registered as self-employed with HMRC and paid NI (class 2) contributions for at least 13 of the 66 weeks before the baby’s due dateMust have paid NI for at least 13 of the 66 weeks before the baby’s expected due date to receive the full £172.48Registered as self-employed for at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the due date and paid NI contributions for at least 13 weeksFull amount (£172.48) requires meeting specific conditions related to NI contributions
Self-Employment (Less than 13 weeks of NI Contributions)Varies, but can increase by paying more NI (class 2) contributionsUp to 39 weeksMaternity Allowance based on weeks of NI (class 2) contributions made. If less than 13 weeks, the allowance is based on contributions. Additional contributions can increase the allowance to the full £172.48Pay additional NI contributions as advised by HMRC after applyingOpportunity to increase allowance with more NI contributions
Unpaid Work for Civil Partner or Spouse£27 a weekUp to 14 weeksPayment made every 2 or 4 weeks, directly into your bank accountSpouse or Civil partner has been registered as self-employed and has made National Insurance contributions (class 2) for 26 weeks of the previous 66 weeks before the baby is due.
If for 26 weeks of the previous 66 weeks before the baby is due, you:
– carried out unpaid work
-have not worked in an employment or self-employment capacity.
For those doing unpaid work for their civil partner or spouse

If you are unsure about your personal situation, we suggest you check the official maternity allowance calculator.

How Long Do You Get Maternity Allowance for?

Maternity Allowance is paid for a maximum of 39 weeks. Payments can commence up to 11 weeks before your due date.

When To Apply for Maternity Allowance

You can apply for maternity allowance online as early as 26 weeks into your pregnancy.

How To Apply for Maternity Allowance

To apply for Maternity Allowance in the UK, you’ll need to complete a Maternity Allowance claim form (MA1), available online, for print, or by post. You must include information about the test period (your employment during the 66 weeks before your baby’s due), alongside proof of income, your baby’s due date, and, if applicable, birth. Submit the completed form together with the necessary documents to the address shown on the maternity allowance form.

What Documents Do I Need To Claim Maternity Allowance

The application for statutory maternity allowance will require the submission of certain documents which include:

  • Proof of income (such as payslips, P45, Self-Assessment documents, or a Certificate of Small Earnings Exemption if applicable)
  • Proof of your baby’s due date (a letter from your doctor or midwife, or your MATB1 certificate)
  • A SMP1 form if you were refused Statutory Maternity Pay

Additionally, if you’re applying based on unpaid work for a spouse or civil partner’s business, further information about that work may be required.

How Long Does It Take To Claim Maternity Benefits?

The administration of paperwork by the UK government agencies is quick. You can expect to receive a decision within 20 business days by letter confirming the outcome and payment amounts if your application is successful.

Maternity Allowance affects your National Insurance credits, contributing towards your State Pension. However, it’s important to note that receiving Maternity Allowance might influence your eligibility for other benefits, so it’s worth checking how it integrates with your overall financial planning.

How Maternity Allowance Affects Other Benefits

Claiming Maternity Allowance may impact your entitlement to other benefits. Because Maternity Allowance is considered income in means-tested benefits calculations, this could mean that when you start receiving it you may end up losing access to another benefit. This is the case, for example, with the Job Seekers Allowance (JSA).

In other cases, you can still receive other benefits but the amount you can get will be affected. This happens, for instance, with the following:

Those claiming Maternity Allowance may be subject to a benefit cap. The benefit cap limits the amount an individual or family can receive in benefit payments. You can read more about benefit caps on the gov.uk website. 

Now You Know

Applying for Maternity Allowance is crucial for those not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay. This benefit covers various groups including employed, self-employed, and those recently out of work who fall within the conditions specified in the test period and earnings threshold.

This guide has outlined the application process, from submitting the MA1 form to gathering necessary proofs like income and pregnancy confirmation. We hope you understand the impact Maternity Allowance can have on other benefits and are now better informed to start your claim.

FAQ

Yes, you can claim Maternity Allowance after your baby is born. However, if you apply after the birth, you might lose some weeks of payment you could have received before the birth. The latest you can make a claim is up to 3 months after your baby is born to avoid losing any of your entitlement.

Maternity Allowance is generally not payable in the case of a miscarriage. However, if the pregnancy loss occurs after the 24th week, it is considered stillbirth and you may be eligible for Maternity Allowance. For specific guidance and support regarding this sensitive matter, we suggest you contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) through Jobcentre Plus. The official maternity allowance phone number for Maternity Allowance queries is 0800 055 6688.

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