Statutory Maternity Pay Guide for Employers (2012-2013)

Statutory Maternity Pay Guide for Employers (2012-2013)

Terms used in this Guide

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

This is a legal entitlement to a certain amount of pay to help a woman take time off work around the time of birth and lasts for up to 39 weeks. For more information on SMP start date see Has your employee given you sufficient notice?

To work out if your employee is entitled to SMP look at the date the baby is due, not the date the baby is born. She can choose the date she wants her SMP to start. The start date can also be triggered by the birth of the baby or a pregnancy-related absence.

Maternity leave

All employed women are legally entitled to a total of 52 weeks maternity leave regardless of their length of service. Women do not need to qualify for SMP to be able to take maternity leave. Maternity leave is split into:

  • Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) – the first 26 weeks of maternity leave
  • Additional Maternity Leave (AML) – the second 26 weeks of maternity leave.

An employee must take two weeks (or four weeks if working in a factory) compulsory maternity leave immediately after the date the child is born and cannot work (or use a KIT day) during that time.

Employment rights

Women have a legal right to:

  • paid time off for antenatal care
  • special health and safety protection when they are pregnant, have given birth recently or are breastfeeding
  • protection against unfair treatment or dismissal
  • return to work after maternity leave.

Treating a woman unfairly on grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave is pregnancy discrimination.

Dismissing someone because she is pregnant, or because they take or seek to take maternity leave, is automatically ‘pregnancy discrimination’.

For more information on employment rights only (not SMP), contact Acas at or phone 08457 47 47 47. Or in Northern Ireland contact the LRA at or phone 028 9034 1442.

If there is disagreement between you and your employee about their entitlement to maternity leave or other employment provisions, you will want to discuss it together first. You will probably also find it helpful to contact Acas at or phone 08457 47 47 47. Or in Northern Ireland contact the LRA at or phone 028 9032 1442. Ultimately, if the dispute continues, your employee may want to take the case to an employment tribunal.


For SMP purposes an employee is a person whose earnings attract a liability for employer’s secondary Class 1 NICs, or would but for your employee’s age or the level of their earnings.

People who are classed as employed earners for Class 1 NICs liability, for example, agency workers, are also employees for SMP.

A person who does not have an employer in the UK that is liable to pay secondary Class 1 NICs on their earnings (for example some people who work in embassies) may pay voluntary employee Class 1 NICs. Such a person is not an employee for SMP purposes.


An employer is whoever is liable to pay the employer’s secondary Class 1 NICs, or would be but for the employee’s age or the level of their earnings.

For SMP purposes, if you have to pay employer’s secondary Class 1 NICs for your employees, or would but for their age or level of earnings and they satisfy all the qualifying conditions for SMP then you will be responsible for making the SMP.

There has been a change to the National Insurance contributions rules for employees who move around the European Economic Area (EEA). For more information go to

If you are not sure who is an employee and who is an employer for Statutory Maternity payments, contact the Employer Helpline on 08457 143 143.

Qualifying Week (QW)

The Qualifying Week is the 15th week before the week the baby is due, see Tables: Important Dates for SMP and Maternity Leave

Normal payday

Regulations define a ‘normal payday’ as either the payday specified in the contract, or the day on which they are usually paid if your employee has no contract or their contract does not specify a payday.

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