When you take time off to have a baby you might be eligible for:

Statutory Maternity Leave
Statutory Maternity Pay
paid time off for antenatal care
extra help from the government
There are rules on when and how to claim your paid leave and if you want to change your dates.

You may also be eligible to get Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

You can estimate your maternity pay and work out your maternity leave online.

Employment rights when on leave
Your employment rights are protected while on Statutory Maternity Leave. This includes your right to:

pay rises
build up (accrue) holiday
return to work


Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks. It’s made up of:

  • ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ – first 26 weeks
  • ‘Additional Maternity Leave’ – last 26 weeks

You don’t have to take 52 weeks but you must take 2 weeks’ leave after your baby is born (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory).

Start date and early births

Usually, the earliest you can start your leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth.

Leave will also start:

  • the day after the birth if the baby is early
  • automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due

Use the maternity planner to work out the earliest date your maternity leave can start.

Change your date for returning to work

You must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice if you want to change your return to work date.



Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £138.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (eg monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.


Start date

SMP usually starts when you take your maternity leave.

It starts automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due.

Problems and disputes

Ask your employer to explain your SMP if you think it’s not right. If you disagree about the amount or your employer can’t pay (eg, because they’re insolvent), call HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) employees’ enquiry line.

HMRC employees’ enquiry line
Telephone: 0300 200 3500
Textphone: 0300 200 3519



Statutory Maternity Leave

You qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave if:

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been with your employer, how many hours you work or how much you get paid.

You can’t get Statutory Maternity Leave if you have a child through surrogacy – you could get unpaid parental leave instead.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

To qualify for SMP you must:

  • earn on average at least £111 a week
  • give the correct notice
  • give proof you’re pregnant
  • have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the ‘qualifying week’ – the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth


You can’t get SMP if you go into police custody during your maternity pay period. It won’t restart when you’re discharged.

Early births or you lose your baby

You can still get Statutory Maternity Leave and SMP if your baby:

  • is born early
  • is stillborn after the start of your 24th week of pregnancy
  • dies after being born

If you’re not eligible for SMP

Your employer must give you form SMP1 explaining why you can’t get SMP within 7 days of making their decision. You could get Maternity Allowance instead.