Statutory Maternity and Paternity Benefits

If you are employed and are expecting a baby then it is important to understand what you are entitled to, from both a financial and non-financial perspective.

Health and Safety whilst still at work is of paramount importance and employers have a legal obligation to ensure your well-being is put at risk. If you are in a role whereby there could be a risk to you and your baby, for example if your job involves lifting, then inform your employer as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed.

During your pregnancy you are entitled to time off work to attend antenatal appointments. Of course f you can arrange these for the start or the end of the working day, your employer will no doubt appreciate this and is likely to be more understanding and flexible to meet any other requests you may have.

When it comes time to finish work to have your baby you are entitled to fifty-two weeks statutory maternity leave, which is split 26 weeks ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks additional maternity leave. This applies to everyone whether full-time, part-time or fixed term contractor. Statutory maternity leave can start up to eleven weeks before your due date. If you choose not to stay off work for the full fifty-two weeks, then you must inform your employer of your intention to return to work at least 28 days before the date of return. This must be in writing.

The father is also entitled to some time off, though sadly not twelve months! Paternity leave allows you to take two consecutive weeks off work within fifty-six days of the baby's birth. Some employers are flexible and will allow you to break up the time off over a number of weeks.

In terms of financials, Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is available if you have been employed by your current employer for at least twenty-six weeks by the time you reach the fourteenth week before the baby is due. SMP is paid for up to thirty-nine weeks. SMP can be claimed when you stop work and you can only start receiving SMP from eleven weeks before the baby is born and at the latest one day after the baby is born. To claim you need to provide 28 days written notice to your employer stating when you intend to stop work, together with a signed MATB1 form.

In the first six weeks you will receive 90% of your weekly earnings. The good news is that there is no upper limit applied to earnings. For the remaining thirty-three weeks the amount of SMP payable in the financial year 2010/11 is 124.88, though this is subject to income tax and national insurance. If your weekly earnings are less than 124.88 then you will receive 90% of your average weekly wage.

If you don't meet the SMP entitlement criteria then there are other financial benefits available to you and these will be covered in a later article.

If the father is entitled to paternity leave, the Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) may be available. This is also at the rate of 124.88 per week for 2010/11, or 90% of weekly earnings if lower.

Carl Fletcher writes for Bumfluff Babies, the reusable cloth nappy, baby gifts ( and baby clothes store.

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