A guide to self-employed maternity pay

Pregnant woman working at a desk using a laptop

Is self-employed maternity pay available? The short answer is ‘yes’, but it depends on a few different things. Our guide will help you figure out the maternity pay you’re entitled to and how to claim it.

There’s only one guarantee when it comes to becoming a parent or adding to your family. For every 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.

What is maternity pay?

There are different types of maternity leave pay available depending on your employment status:

  • statutory maternity pay is the legal minimum for an employer to pay (as long as you’ve worked there for a certain amount of time and earn at least £123 a week on average)
  • enhanced maternity pay is offered by some companies as a benefit to get more than statutory maternity pay (it’s also known as ‘contractual’ maternity pay)
  • maternity allowance is paid by the government if you’re self-employed and can’t claim statutory maternity pay

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.

Statutory maternity pay

There isn’t statutory maternity pay for self-employed people; statutory maternity pay is the benefit that most employed women get.

That said, if you’re self-employed but you also have a job, you may be able to get statutory maternity pay from your employer.

If you’re solely self-employed, it’s very unlikely that you can claim statutory maternity pay, or that you’ll qualify for statutory maternity leave. Instead, you may qualify for maternity allowance, which we’ll cover in lots more detail below.

If you receive statutory maternity pay, 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

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 maternity allowance 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 maternity allowance eligibility will depend on the work you’ve done in the period that’s 66 weeks before your baby is due. This is known as your ‘test period.’

To qualify for maternity allowance, 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 these 66 weeks, 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.

You can check if you’re eligible using the government’s maternity pay calculator.

How much maternity allowance will I get?

The amount of maternity allowance 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 tax return.

If you pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions through your Self Assessment tax return (and you’ve done so for at least 13 weeks in the 66 weeks before your baby’s due), you’ll get £156.66 a week for up to 39 weeks.

If you’re employed or have recently stopped working, you’ll get 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings or £156.66 a week (whichever is less). 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 National Insurance contributions to get the full amount, you may be able to get a reduced amount of between £27 and £156.66 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 National Insurance 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 the 66 weeks before your baby’s due for this to apply, and your partner needs to be making Class 2 National Insurance contributions.

Is maternity pay taxable?

You don’t have to pay tax on maternity allowance.

If you’re newly self-employed, read more about filing your tax return and the Self Assessment process.

How do I apply for maternity allowance?

To apply for Maternity Allowance, you need to complete the maternity allowance claim form, 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.

Maternity leave for self-employed women

Being self-employed means you don’t get the benefit of maternity leave and other paid holidays (unless you also work for an employer too).

In the UK, pregnant employees are entitled to:

  • 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave
  • 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave

Working while on maternity allowance – rules and regulations

If you do any work (either employed or as a self-employed person) during your Maternity Allowance Period then you must tell Jobcentre Plus.

You’re allowed to work a maximum of 10 days during the period you’re receiving maternity allowance. If you work any more than this then you’ll lose your maternity allowance, at least for the number of days worked over 10.

What about self-employed dads and partners?

Currently, self-employed dads and partners aren’t able to get paternity leave and statutory paternity pay in the UK. This is only an option for employees with an employment contract.

You might be able to get shared parental leave if your partner is employed and entitled to maternity leave.

Employment and support allowance

If you’re not eligible for maternity allowance, you may be able to get employment and support allowance (ESA) instead. If you claim maternity allowance and don’t qualify, you’ll automatically be considered for employment and support allowance instead.

The minimum amount of employment and support allowance is £77 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.

If you live in Scotland, you’ll need to apply for the Pregnancy and Baby Payment instead. This is currently £642.35 for your first child.

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.

Read more about other low income benefits you may be eligible for, including Universal Credit (which is replacing Employment and Support Allowance and Child Tax Credit).

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.

Small business guides and resources

If you have any lingering questions about maternity pay for self-employed women, ask away in the comments below!

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Photograph: boschman/stock.adobe.com

Jade Wimbledon

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