UK Maternity Leave

01 April 2023

An employee who is expecting a baby has the right to 26 weeks of ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’ and 26 weeks of ‘Additional Maternity Leave’ – making one year in total. The first two weeks of maternity leave after childbirth are compulsory.

An expecting employee must notify you at least 15 weeks before the estimated due date with details of the expected due date and when they intend to start and finish maternity leave. Following notification of the expected pregnancy, you must write to the employee within 28 days confirming the details.

The earliest maternity leave can start is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Maternity leave will begin automatically if the employee is off work due to a pregnancy related illness in the 4 weeks before the expected week of childbirth or the day following the birth if the baby arrives early.

Employees can continue to work right up to the baby’s due date if they wish.

Maternity Leave

The entitlement to statutory maternity leave based on the applicable eligibility criteria referenced below is up to 52 weeks. In line with UK legislation, at least 2 weeks (4 weeks if the employee is a factory worker) must be taken following the birth of the baby.

Maternity Pay

Your employee must provide you with a Maternity Certificate (MAT B1 form) to confirm they are expecting a baby. The form should be signed by a doctor or midwife and should confirm the expected due date. A copy of this must be provided to your payroll provider.

You must not pay Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) unless you get this form (or similar evidence of pregnancy) from your employee.

Whether you have to pay SMP to an expectant employee depends on how long they have worked for you and how much they earn.


For an employee to be considered eligible for statutory maternity leave, they must:

  • be an employee, not a ‘worker’;
  • provide you with the correct notice.

For an employee to be considered eligible for statutory maternity pay, they must:

  • have worked for you continuously (full or part time) for at least 26 weeks up to and into the 15th week before the week the baby is due (the qualifying week);
  • earn at least £123 per week (gross); and
  • have given you the right paperwork confirming the pregnancy and sufficient notice of when they would like to start their maternity leave.

If your employee’s earnings are below £123 per week or they do not qualify for SMP for another reason, they may be entitled to Maternity Allowance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).


If the employee is eligible, SMP will be paid for up to 39 weeks, so you must pay them:

  • 90% of their average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks; and
  • £172.48 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks (amount correct as of April 2023).

In addition to the statutory pay above, we typically see employer’s ‘top-up’ any entitlement to statutory pay to the employee’s full rate of pay for a number of weeks as part of their discretionary Company policy and benefits offering. We typically see anything from 6 to 12 weeks at the employee’s full rate of pay with applicable terms and conditions as the Company sees necessary. How much top up the Company offers, if any, is a commercial decision and can be communicated to the employee via a maternity confirmation letter.

Processing any discretionary top up through the payroll is relatively straightforward, this will simply need to be communicated to your payroll provider with a copy of the written agreement supplied for confirmation.

Tax Treatment

It is important to be aware that payments of SMP count as earnings, therefore Pay As You Earn (PAYE) income tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) may be deducted.

Employers may also be able to recover up to 92% of the SMP for a period of 39 weeks. The reclaim is carried out automatically through the employee payroll system by reducing the total PAYE liability.

Any discretionary top up to maternity pay, as detailed under the rates section above, is made at your discretion and will not be recoverable.

It is important to seek professional advice as early as possible to determine eligibility for any kind of statutory payment and how you might be able to recover costs.

How ZEDRA can help

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Whether you are already established in the UK or hiring staff for the first time, we can guide you and your business through the employee related regulatory, planning and reporting requirements.

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