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What is a Maternity Allowance?

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  • Written By: M. Walker
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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A maternity allowance (MA) is a form of compensated parental leave for individuals in the United Kingdom (UK). Individuals who are not eligible for statutory maternity pay (SMP) might be able to receive an MA under certain employment conditions, such as self-employment, recent unemployment, or a recent job change. Low-income employees often qualify for both a maternity allowance and a maternity grant under some conditions.

Qualifications for receiving maternity funding in the form of an MA include SMP eligibility, employment status, and length of employment. Individuals who are eligible for an SMP are not able to receive a maternity allowance. Eligible individuals must have been employed for a minimum of 26 weeks in the 66 weeks leading up to the due date, and earning a minimum of £30 British Pounds sterling (GBP) per week for 13 of those weeks.

Employment status is also relatively flexible for getting a maternity allowance. Although individuals must have been employed for 26 weeks, they could be self-employed for those weeks or working for a different employer. Currently unemployed individuals still qualify as long as they have met the minimum work requirement in the last 66 weeks. Part-time work weeks are still counted as full weeks for the 26-week requirement.

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An MA typically pays a set allowance that is the lesser value of either 90% of an individual’s average earnings or £124.88 GBP per week. The start date of payments is generally 11 weeks before the baby’s due date for unemployed individuals. For individuals who are currently employed, maternity benefits can begin to be claimed as early as 11 weeks prior to the due date and as late as the day after the baby’s birth. The maximum time period for receiving funds from a maternity allowance is 39 weeks.

Filing for a maternity allowance involves filling out a claim form, which can be found at a local Department of Work and Pensions office, sometimes known as a social security or Jobcentre Plus office. Other requirements include medical proof of pregnancy, evidence of current wages, and forms from employers detailing a lack of eligibility for SMP, which are known as SMP1 forms. Earnings summaries should be sent in the form of payslips, and self-employed workers should send in Small Earnings Exception certificates.

Individuals can begin claims for a maternity allowance once they have reached 26 weeks of pregnancy. Maternity leave status does not interfere with other benefits or tax credits received through programs such as Disability Living Allowance programs. Programs that will offer no benefits or reduced benefits include Carer’s Allowance, bereavement benefits, income support programs, as well as employment, support, and jobseeker allowances.

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