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Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999


There are two maternity benefits for pregnant working women. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is administered and paid by employers; Maternity Allowance (MA) is paid by the DSS.

  • Statutory Maternity Pay is paid to employees who satisfy two basic tests. A woman must have been employed continuously by her employer for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before her baby is expected; and she must earn on average at or above the Lower Earnings Limit (LEL: the starting point for paying National Insurance contributions, currently £66 a week).

  • Maternity Allowance is paid to women who do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, to the self-employed, and to recently employed women. To qualify, they must have worked and paid National Insurance contributions for at least 26 of the 66 weeks ending with the week before the expected week of childbirth.

Both SMP and MA provide a basic weekly benefit for employees of £59.55 (the same as Statutory Sick Pay) for up to 18 weeks. SMP beneficiaries, however, receive 90% of their average earnings for the first 6 weeks, if this is higher. The self-employed and recently employed receive a lower rate of Maternity Allowance of £51.70.

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