Financial support and entitlements during pregnancy and maternity
Pregnancy and maternity leave can be an anxious time for parents, and money worries can contribute to this. However, there are many different benefits and entitlements available depending on your personal circumstances. The information below is designed to give you an overview of this and signpost you to further information.
- Healthy Start Scheme: The Healthy Start Scheme provides free tokens to assist with the purchase of milk, vegetables, infant formula and vitamins. To be eligible you must be at least 10 weeks pregnant, or have a child in the household under the age of four, and be in receipt of a qualifying benefit. For further information visit nidirect.gov.uk/articles/free-milk-fruit-vegetables-and-vitamins
- Paid time off for antenatal care: If you are currently employed you have a right to paid time off to attend your antenatal appointments. This time off is in addition to your annual leave entitlement and is regardless of length of service. Your partner or the child’s paternal father is entitled to unpaid time off work to attend up to two antenatal appointments. For further information visit nidirect.gov.uk/articles/working-when-pregnant
- Statutory Maternity Leave and Pay (SMP): If you are working and pregnant, you may be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). To qualify for SMP you must have been with your current employer for at least 26 weeks and have average earnings of at least £118/week. SMP is ordinarily paid for the first 39 weeks of your 52 week maternity leave entitlement.
|Statutory Maternity Leave||Statutory Maternity Pay (2019/2020)|
|The first six weeks||90% of your average weekly earnings before tax|
|The next 33 weeks||£148.68 or 90% of your average weekly earnings – whichever is less|
|The next 13 weeks (if taken)||Unpaid|
If eligible for SMP you will need to tell your employer when you intend to stop working at least 15 weeks before baby is due, you will also need to give your employer at least 28 days advanced notice regarding when you would like your SMP to begin. For further information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/statutory-maternity-leave
- Maternity Allowance (MA): If you are working or have been in recent employment, but are not entitled to SMP, you might be entitled to Maternity Allowance. To qualify for MA, you will either;
- not have worked for your current employer long enough and they will have issued you with a SMP (1) form stating why they are not liable to pay you SMP or
- be self-employed or
- have average weekly earnings of less than £118/week.
Depending on your earnings, in the 2019/20 tax year you could get either:
- £148.68 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less) for up to 39 weeks or
- £27 a week for 39 weeks or
- £27 a week for up to 14 weeks.
For further information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/maternity-allowance
- Statutory Paternity Leave and Pay: If your partner is pregnant, adopting a child or having a baby through a surrogate, you might be eligible for Paternity Leave. You could also qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay. For further information visit nidirect.gov.uk/articles/paternity-leave
- Shared Parental Leave and Pay: If you have a baby (including through a surrogacy arrangement, where you are a ‘Parental Order Parent’) or adopt a child, you and your partner might be entitled to Shared Parental Leave (SPL) during your child’s first year. Parents and adopters might also be eligible for Shared Parental Pay (ShPP). For further information visit nidirect.gov.uk/articles/shared-parental-leave-and-pay
- Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay: If you are adopting as a couple, or a couple who are Parental Order Parents (i.e. becoming a parent through a surrogacy arrangement), you may be entitled to Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay. Note that only one of you can take adoption leave, however a partner may qualify for statutory paternity leave and pay. The person who qualifies for Statutory Adoption Leave may also qualify for Statutory Adoption Pay. You don’t qualify for Statutory Adoption Leave or Pay if you:
- arrange a private adoption
- become a special guardian
- adopt a stepchild.
For further information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/statutory-adoption-pay
- Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG): In most cases the SSMG is a one-off, tax-free payment to help towards costs associated with maternity and the birth of your first baby. Note that in Scotland, the equivalent is the Pregnancy and Baby Payment.
To be eligible for the grant you must be on a qualifying benefit. This includes Universal Credit, however your application will only be recognised once you have received your first Universal Credit payment. For further information visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/sure-start-maternity-grant
- Tax Credits and Universal Credit: For those in receipt of Tax Credits or Universal Credit, having a baby may increase the amount of benefit payable. Note that neither Tax Credits nor Universal Credit take children born after 5th April 2017 into account if there are already two children in the household (some exceptions apply).
It is important to seek independent advice about the implications for you and your family. Call Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service on Freephone 0800 028 3008.
- Child Benefit: Child Benefit is payable for each child or young person you are responsible for. It is NOT limited to two children. Once one member of the household starts to earn £50,000 (or more) per annum, they may have to pay extra tax, equating to a 10% reduction in Child Benefit for every £1,000 earned over £50,000. This tax is called ‘The High-Income Child Benefit Charge’. For further information visit nidirect.gov.uk/contacts/contacts-az/child-benefit-office
- Support with childcare costs: Parents may be eligible for support with their childcare costs through a range of schemes including Childcare Vouchers (provided the parent joined before the scheme closed to new entrants), Tax-Free Childcare, Tax Credits or Universal Credit. The best scheme for each family will depend on their household circumstances and eligibility. Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service can complete a personalised calculation for each family, and advise on what form of support is best. For further information visit employersforchildcare.org/parents/family-benefits-advice-service/
- Marriage Allowance: If you are married or in a civil partnership and have decided not to return to work following the birth of your child, you may be able to apply for the Marriage Allowance. For further information visit gov.uk/marriage-allowance
- Childcare Grant: Exists to assist some full time students with the cost of childcare. For further information visit nidirect.gov.uk/articles/extra-help-students-children
We know it can be complex working out what support you are entitled to, and what is best for your family, at what is already a busy, and sometimes stressful time with the arrival of a new baby. Employers For Childcare’s Family Benefits Advice Service offers free, impartial and confidential advice and can provide you with a personalised calculation setting out what financial support you are entitled to. Call Freephone 0800 028 3008 to speak to a trained advisor – lines are open Monday-Friday 8am-5pm.