Understanding your leave and allowances when you’re pregnant or becoming a parent can be a bit of a minefield, so we’ve teamed up with MoneyForce to make sense of it all…

IF YOU are having a baby, you’re entitled to maternity leave no matter how long you’ve worked for your employer.

The earliest your paid maternity leave can start is the 11th week before your due date or if your baby is born early, it starts the day after the birth.

You don’t have to take the 52 weeks you’re entitled to, but you must take at least two weeks off work following the birth.

What will I be paid?

You may be entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay through your employer or if you’re a soldier, the Armed Forces’ own scheme. If you don’t qualify, you can claim maternity allowance through the benefit system.

If you earn at least £113 a week on average, Statutory Maternity Pay is the legal minimum your employer should pay while you’re on maternity leave.

You’ll get this if you have worked for your employer for 26 weeks when you reach the 15th week before your due date:

  • First six weeks – 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings before tax
  • The next 33 weeks – £140.98 per week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less)
  • The next 13 weeks – unpaid.

If you’re self-employed or earn less than £113 a week, you might be entitled to maternity allowance from the government instead.

The Armed Forces Occupational Maternity Scheme provides qualifying soldiers with full pay for the first 26 weeks. To be eligible for this you must have at least a year’s continuous service and intend to return to work for a minimum of 12 months.

If you decide not to return to work after 52 weeks, you might have to pay back any extra maternity pay from your employer. Check with your HR department.

The gov.uk website also has information on what to do if you’re adopting and how and when to claim your pay or allowance.

What about dads?

For soldiers, the Armed Forces Occupational Paternity Leave Scheme provides fathers with 14 days of statutory paternity leave on two weeks’ full pay.

If you’re an employee elsewhere, you’re entitled to either one or two weeks of paid statutory paternity leave which must be taken as a whole week or consecutive weeks once the baby is born.

Who’s eligible?

To qualify, you must be the:

  • child’s biological father
  • child’s mother’s husband or partner (including same-sex partners)
  • child’s adopter or intended parent (if using a surrogate).

You must also have been working for your employer for at least 26 continuous weeks by either the 15th week before the due date, or the week that you’re told you’ve been matched with your child for adoption.

Paternity pay is £140.98 per week or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings, whichever is less.

Shared parental leave

If you live in England, Wales or Scotland, you may be eligible for shared parental leave, which allows you to share up to 50 weeks’ parental leave and 37 weeks’ pay with your partner. If you’re eligible, you can even take the leave in up to three separate blocks.

Qualifying Service personnel may be able to take up to 26 weeks of Additional Paternity Leave in order to care for their new child if the mother/co-adopter has returned to work.

For more advice, check the MOD’s Defence Instructions and Notices policy, reference: 2011DIN01-037 on the Defence intranet, visit moneyforce.org.uk or go to the AFF website, aff.org.uk

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