If you’re wondering whether maternity pay is available to the self-employed, the short answer is ‘yes’. Our guide will help you figure out the maternity pay you’re entitled to and how to claim it.
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There’s only one guarantee when it comes to becoming a parent or adding to your family. For every single expectant mother, the experience will be completely different. Hopefully it’s a wonderful, exciting time, but add to that your self-employed status, and logistics can get tricky.
Our guide takes you through the main maternity pay types currently available in the UK, and tells you how self-employed mums and mums-to-be can claim them. All the information is specific to this tax year (April 2017 to April 2018).
We’ll follow up with another guide for self-employed dads too, so look out for that one and in the meantime share this with any mums and families you think might benefit.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
Statutory Maternity Pay is the benefit that most employed women get. If you’re self-employed but you also have a job, you may be able to get SMP from your employer.
If you’re solely self-employed, it’s very unlikely that you can claim SMP, or qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave. Instead, you may qualify for Maternity Allowance (MA), which we’ll discuss in lots more detail below.
If you receive SMP, you won’t qualify for Maternity Allowance, even if you’re also working for yourself at the same time, or helping out a self-employed spouse or civil partner.
Maternity Allowance (MA)
This benefit is provided by the government, and is designed for women who don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay. This makes it a key maternity benefit for self-employed women.
You can claim MA as soon as you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks. Payments can begin 11 weeks before your baby’s due at the earliest, and the day after your baby’s born at the latest.
Whether you can get it and how much you can get will depend on a few eligibility factors.
Am I eligible for Maternity Allowance?
Your MA eligibility will depend on the work you’ve done during what’s called your ‘test period.’ This is the 66 weeks before your due date. To qualify for MA, you’ll need to have been employed and/or self-employed for at least 26 weeks of your test period.
If you’ve done any paid work during a week in your test period, that counts as one full week, even if you’ve only worked for one day that week. Also bear in mind that these weeks don’t need to be consecutive. So you could have worked a Monday and Tuesday of one week, and then a Thursday two weeks later, and this would count as two weeks.
At least 13 of these ‘weekly’ earnings need to be £30 or over for you to be eligible.
How much Maternity Allowance will I get?
The amount of MA you get will depend on your Class 2 National Insurance (NI) contributions. Depending on your earnings, these are made automatically when you submit your Self Assessment (SA) tax return.
If you pay Class 2 NI contributions through your SA tax return (and you’ve done so for at least 13 weeks of your test period), you’ll generally be entitled to receive £140.98 per week for up to 39 weeks.
If you earnt less than £140.98 a week on average during your test period, you’ll get 90% of your average gross (pre-tax) weekly earnings instead. To calculate the average, your total gross earnings for the 13 eligible weeks of your test period will be added up and divided by 13.
If you haven’t paid enough Class 2 NI contributions to get the full amount, you may be able to get a reduced amount of £27 a week for up to 39 weeks, as long as you meet the other criteria.
You may still be able to qualify for the full rate by making early NI contributions. If this is relevant to you, HMRC can help you do it.
If your spouse or civil partner is self-employed and you do unpaid work for their business you may be able to get Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks. You need to have been doing work for the business for at least 26 weeks of your test period for this to apply, and your partner needs to be making Class 2 NI contributions.
You don’t have to pay tax on Maternity Allowance.
How do I apply for Maternity Allowance?
To apply for Maternity Allowance, you need to complete the Maternity Allowance claim form (available on the government’s website), and send it to the address given on the form.
If you have any issues downloading and printing the form, you can ask JobCentre Plus to post you one instead.
Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
If you’re not eligible for Maternity Allowance, you may be able to get Employment and Support Allowance instead. If you claim MA and don’t qualify, you’ll automatically be considered for ESA instead.
The minimum amount of ESA is £57.90 a week. ESA can be paid for six weeks before your due date and for two weeks after the baby is born.
Your MAT B1 form - the maternity certificate that your midwife gives you after your 20 week scan - is enough to prove that you’re unable to work. You won’t need to undergo a Work Capability Assessment.
Other benefits for pregnant women and parents
If this is your first child and you or your partner is receiving a benefit like Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance, you may be able to get the Sure Start Maternity Grant. This is a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a baby.
Once your baby is born, you may be entitled to Child Benefit, which is a payment for anyone who is caring for a child under 16. However, if you or your partner has an income of over £50,000, you’ll probably have to pay a tax charge.
There’s also Child Tax Credit, which is a means-tested benefit to help with the cost of raising a child. Whether you’re eligible and how much you can get depends on several factors, so check the government’s page on Child Tax Credit for more details.
The government is in the process of rolling out Universal Credit, which is a new benefit that will replace several other low income benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance and Child Tax Credit. Depending on where you live in the country, you may be asked to apply for Universal Credit instead when you apply for one of these benefits.
Help from Jobcentre Plus
If you have any questions about maternity benefits, check in with your local Jobcentre Plus. Whether it’s by phone or in-branch, Jobcentre Plus are experienced in dealing with self-employed and maternity pay-related scenarios. Their role is to help you navigate the logistics and work out what you’re entitled to, so make a visit or give them a call to get things in motion.
If you have any lingering questions about maternity pay for self-employed women, ask away in the comments below!