Maternity Allowance is a benefit for those who can’t get maternity pay from their employer. This normal maternity pay is Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). This might happen for many reasons. Maybe because you are out of work or you haven’t worked for long enough for that company.

Maternity Allowance or Statutory Maternity Pay are examples of maternity pay. Maternity pay is a different issue to maternity leave. Every female employee has the right to maternity leave during her pregnancy. This is something we talk more about below.

The information below applies to everyone in the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. The claim form is the only different thing about Maternity Allowance in Northern Ireland.

Maternity Allowance Form

Download the 2018 Maternity Allowance Form.

What is Maternity Allowance?

Maternity Allowance is a benefit you can get if you are pregnant or if you have just given birth. It is for women who aren’t eligible for SMP from their employer.

How much you get depends on what your average weekly earnings are. It also depends on how much National Insurance you’ve paid in the run up to your pregnancy.

You can either receive the full amount of Maternity Allowance or you can receive a lower amount. You will receive a lower amount of Maternity Allowance if:

  • You haven’t paid enough National Insurance Contributions.
  • You didn’t earn enough before your pregnancy.
  • If you didn’t work enough leading up to your pregnancy.

You can begin claiming it 11 weeks before your baby’s due date (26 weeks into your pregnancy).

Maternity Allowance affects other benefits you get apart from tax credit. It will also count towards the benefit cap. Your local jobcentre handle it so if you have any further questions, you can speak to your work coach.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

This article is not about Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). If you are eligible for SMP, you will not be able to claim Maternity Allowance.

You should discuss with your employer if you are eligible or not, and how much you are able to receive. You will find that you might be better off if you claim SMP instead of Maternity Allowance. It is a good idea to double check you’re definitely not eligible.

If you claim SMP, you will receive 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks. After this, you will either receive:

  • £145.18 per week.
  • 90% of your average weekly earnings for the rest of your pregnancy.
  • You will receive the lowest amount of these two options.

    This ‘average’ income is across the eight weeks before you start your claim.

    To be eligible, usually you have to earn over £116 a week. You will also have to be working for that employer for some time. The rule is 26 weeks employment before the 15th week of your pregnancy. Sound complicated? To make it simpler, you were working for that company about 11 weeks before you fell pregnancy.

    If you find that you are not eligible, then this article will help you claim Maternity Allowance.

    How much can I get?

    The amount you can claim in Maternity Allowance depends on your personal circumstances.

    The government have a maternity pay calculator. This will show you how much maternity leave and maternity pay you can get during your pregnancy. You can access it through this link:

    https://www.gov.uk/pay-leave-for-parents

    Make sure you have these details handy before you start:

    • When you started working.
    • How much you earn each week.
    • When you left your last job (if you are out of work).

    There are three types of Maternity Allowance:

    • Full rate. The full rate of Maternity Allowance is £145.18 per week or 90% of your average earnings before tax. Whichever of these amounts is lower is the amount you’ll receive. This amount covers all 39 weeks of your pregnancy.
    • Lower rate. You will receive this if you haven’t paid enough National Insurance. You will also get this if you didn’t earn enough in the lead up to your pregnancy to claim the full rate. This is £27 a week for 39 weeks.
    • Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks. You will receive this if you don’t work but you assist your partner who is self-employed in their business. We discuss this option more below.

    Maternity Allowance is also included in the Benefit Cap. This limits the amount in some benefits individuals or families can now receive.

    Who can claim Maternity Allowance?

    There are no age requirements for Maternity Allowance and it is not a means tested benefit. This means that it doesn’t matter what age you are or what you have in savings.

    To be eligible:

    • You have to have worked or were self-employed for at least 26 weeks out of 66 weeks before you due date. This 66 weeks is the ‘test period’ and it goes all the way up to your due date. These 26 weeks of employment can be split up any time during the employment period. They don’t need to happen all at once. It also doesn’t have to be the same employer in the 66 weeks. The important part is that you were working for at least 26 weeks throughout this test period.
    • You’ve paid enough National Insurance in the lead up to your pregnancy. If you haven’t, the Department for Work and Pensions will get in touch. They will let you know how much you need to pay to qualify for the highest rate. If you’re self-employed you have to have paid enough National Insurance to get the full amount. You need to have paid Class 2 contributions for 13 out of the 66 weeks. If you haven’t, the DWP will write to you. In Northern Ireland, the Department for Communities will write to you.
    • You have earned over £30 a week over any 13 weeks in the test period.

    If you don’t meet these eligibility requirements, you may get Lower Rate Maternity Allowance. This is £27 instead of £145.18 a week for the 39 weeks of your pregnancy. You can talk to your work coach in the jobcentre to find out how much you qualify for.

    Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks

    There is also a special type of Maternity Allowance that only comes for 14 weeks of your pregnancy. The current rate of the benefit is £27 a week for 14 weeks.

    You may be eligible for this if:

    • You and your partner are married or in a civil partnership.
    • You don’t work (either employed or self-employed).
    • Your partner is self-employed and you also help run the business.
    • You don’t receive any money for the work you do.
    • You aren’t eligible for full-rate Maternity Allowance or SMP.
    • Your partner has paid enough National Insurance.

    If you are unsure if your partner has paid enough National Insurance or not, you can speak to your local jobcentre.

    How will I be paid?

    You will start getting Maternity Allowance in your account 26 weeks into your pregnancy.

    You can decide which account you want to use on your application form.

    It will either come every two weeks or every four weeks, depending on your preference when you apply.

    How to claim

    Claiming Maternity Allowance is straightforward and doesn’t need much effort.

    If you are late to claiming Maternity Allowance, it doesn’t matter. You can backdate your claim up to 3 months after your baby is born. It doesn’t matter why you were late, you won’t need to provide a reason on your claim form.

    If you live in England Scotland and Wales:

    You can download a MA1 claim form from the government’s website. You can either fill it in online and print it or you can print it and fill it in by hand. You can find the form using the following link:

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maternity-allowance-claim-form

    If you don’t have access to the internet, you can phone jobcentre plus and request a claim form in the post.

    0345 608 8610

    If you need a textphone option:

    0800 0234 888

    You can also use these numbers to request special formats like braille, large print or an audio CD.

    Once you submit your claim, you should hear a decision within 24 working days.

    If you live in Northern Ireland:

    If you live in Northern Ireland you can phone your local Jobs and Benefits office who will post you a claim form. Find your nearest office here:

    https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/contacts/jobs-benefits-offices-jobcentres-and-social-security-offices

    Or you download a claim form from NI Direct website and fill it in by hand:

    https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/maternity-allowance#toc-7

    To make a claim in the UK for Maternity Allowance, you’ll need:

    • Your National Insurance number.
    • Valid ID.
    • If you’re employed you’ll need a SMP1 form that your employer can give you.
    • Evidence of your wages in the run up to your pregnancy.
    • Evidence of your pregnancy. This is usually a maternity certificate from your doctor or midwife, called a MATB1.

    If you’re not eligible, you could be eligible for income support. This is something you can discuss with your work coach in your local jobcentre.

    Change of circumstances

    Like with any benefit, you need to report any changes in your personal circumstances. This can be anything like changing your name, losing your job or separating from your partner.

    If you fail to do this, your benefits could go down or stopped altogether.

    If you lose your baby

    If you lose your baby, you will still be eligible for Maternity Allowance if:

    • Your baby is stillborn anytime after the 23rd week of pregnancy.
    • Born alive at any point during the pregnancy.

    You can speak to your work coach or midwife and doctor if you need help with your claim form during this time.

    How to challenge a decision

    You will receive a letter from the DWP telling you the outcome of your claim. They will explain how they made the decision.

    If you aren’t eligible for Maternity Allowance, you can challenge the decision. This is a ‘mandatory reconsideration’.

    You can do this with any of the benefits the government offer.

    You need to be careful, as the time limits for challenging the decision are quite strict. You have one month from the date of rejection to submit a challenge.

    Turn2Us has a useful guide for challenging decisions:

    https://www.turn2us.org.uk/Benefit-guides/Challenging-Department-for-Work-and-Pensions-benef/What-are-my-options

    Maternity rights

    It is important to be aware of your rights when pregnant. It doesn’t matter if you’re claiming Maternity Allowance or SMP.

    These are your maternity rights. In the UK, all employees have the right to these things while pregnant: