1. Entitlement

Statutory Maternity Leave

Eligible employees can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, the last 26 weeks as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’.

The earliest leave can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Employees must take at least 2 weeks after the birth (or 4 weeks if they’re a factory worker).

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

SMP for eligible employees can be paid for up to 39 weeks, usually as follows:

  • the first 6 weeks - 90% of their average weekly earnings (AWE) before tax
  • the remaining 33 weeks - £138.18 or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower)

Tax and National Insurance need to be deducted.

Use the SMP calculator to work out an employee’s maternity leave and pay.

Some employment types like agency workers, directors and educational workers have different rules for entitlement.

Extra leave or pay

You can offer more than the statutory amounts if you have a company maternity scheme. You must make sure your maternity leave and pay policies are clear and easily accessible to staff.

If the baby is born early

Leave starts the day after the birth if the baby is born early.

The employee has to confirm the actual date of birth - they don’t have to do this in writing unless you request it. You will have to write to them confirming the new end date for their leave.

For very premature births where the child is born 15 weeks before the due date, you’ll need to calculate SMP using your payroll software (if it has this feature) or work it out manually.

If the baby dies

Employees still qualify for leave or pay if the baby:

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

Employment rights

An employee’s employment rights (like the right to pay, holidays and returning to a job) are protected during maternity leave. You still have to pay SMP even if you stop trading.

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