The Basics of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and Leave

Maternity blog header

Congrats! One of your employees is expecting a little bundle of joy. While you’re absolutely thrilled for them, you might also be feeling a bit lost when it comes to dealing with maternity leave and pay as a small business owner. Not to worry, we’ve got you covered!


First things first, it’s important to know that as an employer, you’re legally required to provide the following for any pregnant employees:


  • Up to 52 weeks of maternity leave
  • Maternity pay for up to 39 weeks


Now, before you start panicking about how you’re going to cover for that amount of time, let’s break it down.


The 52 Weeks of Maternity Leave

Your employee can start their maternity leave up to 11 weeks before their due date. However, leave will automatically start the day after the birth if they haven’t already started it. The 52 weeks is then split into:


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


During this time, your employee is entitled to all their normal employee benefits, except for wages/salary.


Maternity Pay for 39 Weeks

As for pay, it gets a bit tricky depending on how long your employee has been with your company and their earnings. But broadly speaking:


  • For the first 6 weeks, they get 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax
  • For the next 33 weeks, they can claim either £172.48 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower)


As the employer, you’re responsible for paying the maternity pay, but you can claim this back from HMRC.  Depending on your circumstances this will either be as a reduction on your monthly PAYE bill, or claiming it back at the end of the tax year.  If you don’t have the cash available to fund this, then you are also able to apply for a lump sum payment upfront.  Many small businesses are also able to claim a 3% compensation on top of the SMP they claim back from HMRC.


The Paperwork

Of course, there are forms and procedures to follow. Around 15 weeks before the due date, your employee needs to notify you of when they want to start their leave and provide proof of the pregnancy. You’ll then need to confirm details like start/end dates within 28 days.


There are also some adjustments needed to your payroll and monthly filings – which we can help with if looking after your payroll!


How about the baby’s father?

The baby’s dad is also entitled to some time off – go check out our blog on Statutory Paternity Pay, and Shared Parental Leave for more info.


The Bottom Line

Having an employee go on maternity leave can seem daunting as a small business owner. But with some preparation and understanding of your obligations, you can navigate this.   And who knows, that little bundle might just be your future protege!


Need help with your payroll and SMP? 

We’re here to help.  Pop over to our Get Started page and complete the questionnaire and we’ll be in touch.


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