Section 1: Maternity pay period
8.Statutory maternity pay is paid to women who satisfy certain conditions. To qualify, a woman must have been employed by her employer for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks ending with the week (“the qualifying week”) immediately preceding the 14th week before the expected week of her confinement. In addition, her normal weekly earnings for the period of 8 weeks ending with the qualifying week must be equal to or more than the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contributions. Statutory maternity pay is paid and administered by employers who recover most of the cost of the payments by deductions from National Insurance, PAYE tax and certain other payments due to HM Revenue and Customs.
9.Maternity allowance is paid to certain women who do not qualify for statutory maternity pay, in particular to the self-employed and to certain recently employed women. To qualify a woman must have been employed or self-employed in at least 26 of the 66 weeks ending with the week before the expected week of confinement. She must also meet an earnings condition in respect of 13 weeks falling within the 66 week period. Maternity allowance is paid directly to women by the Department for Work and Pensions and is administered by the Department.
10.The maximum period that may be prescribed in regulations as the period for which statutory maternity pay is payable is 26 weeks (see section 165(1) of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, as amended by section 18 of the Employment Act 2002). The period currently prescribed is a maximum period of 26 weeks. Maternity allowance is payable for the same period (see section 35(2) of the 1992 Act).
11.Section 1 extends the maximum period that may be prescribed to 52 weeks. The intention is to prescribe, in regulations, a period of 39 weeks for women expecting babies on or after 1st April 2007. The extension to 39 weeks is a step towards the Government’s goal of one year’s maternity pay.