NI17A - A guide to Maternity Benefits
Maternity Allowance (MA)
Maternity Allowance (MA) is a benefit paid weekly by Jobcentre Plus to pregnant women. You might get MA if:
- you are employed , but not eligible for SMP
- you are registered self-employed and paying Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs), or hold a Small Earnings Exception certificate
- you have recently been employed or self-employed
If you have more than one employer, and you get SMP from one employer and not the other, you cannot claim MA. If you are both employed and self-employed and you can get SMP from your employer, you cannot claim MA for your self-employment.
MA can be paid for up to 39 weeks.
The qualifying conditions for MA depend on the date your baby is due not the date your baby is actually born. The week in which your baby is due is referred to as the EWC – expected week of childbirth.
You do not pay income tax or NI contributions on Maternity Allowance.
If you have a visa that allows you to live and work in the United Kingdom but includes the condition that you have “no recourse to public funds” you may still get MA. provided you satisfy the qualifying conditions. The qualifying conditions for MA depend on your recent employment and earnings history. Because of this MA does not constitute public funds
If you think you may be entitled to MA, please read the following pages very carefully. The 'Terminology' page should help you if you forget the meanings of any of the abbreviations or technical phrases.
If you did not qualify for SMP because you did not earn enough (see ‘The earnings rule’) and while you were on maternity leave your employer awards a pay rise which you would have received had you not been on maternity leave, you should ask your employer to look again at whether you could get SMP. If after recalculation you qualify for SMP, your employer will pay the difference between any MA paid to you and the SMP due.
You can only get MA if you cannot get SMP from your employer.
To qualify for MA, you have to satisfy two basic rules:
- the employment rule; and
- the earnings rule
You have to satisfy these rules in a test period. The test period is the period of 66 weeks up to and including the week before the week your baby is due.
To get MA you must not be eligible for SMP from any employer.
The Employment rule
You must have been employed and/or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in your 66 week test period. The 26 weeks do not have to be in a row and it does not matter how much you earn.You do not have to be actually physically at work to be employed or self-employed; you might be off work sick or have been on Statutory Maternity Leave for an earlier pregnancy for example.
Weeks when you have not worked a full week count towards your 26 weeks.
If you are self-employed, you must be registered as such with HM Revenue & Customs according to their rules.
The Earnings rule
To get MA your earnings, on average, must be at least equal to the Maternity Allowance Threshold (MAT) which applies at the beginning of your test period. The MAT is £30 a week so you must earn on average at least £30 a week. If you have more than one employer, all earnings will count when working out the average.
Period for calculating average weekly earnings
Your earnings are averaged over any 13 weeks in your test period. The 13 weeks do not have to be in a row and you may choose the weeks with the most earnings to help you get more MA. Earnings from all your jobs (if you have more than one) and earnings you are treated as having from self-employment will be used to work out your average weekly earnings. If your average is at least equal to £30 a week you will get MA.
If you are an employee the earnings rule is based on your gross earnings during your test period. Gross earnings are your earnings before any deductions and may include:
- Ordinary Statutory Adoption Pay
- Statutory Maternity Pay
- Statutory Paternity Pay
- Additional Statutory Paternity Pay.
- Statutory Sick Pay
If you are paid at intervals which are not an exact number of weeks (for example monthly), Jobcentre Plus will work out your weekly earnings from your payslips. For example the earnings in a month will be divided by the number of whole weeks in that month to reach a weekly gross earnings figure.
If you are part of a salary sacrifice scheme this will mean that you have voluntarily under your contract given up the right to some of your earnings in return for benefits from your employer e.g. childcare vouchers. MA will be assessed on those lower contractual earnings that is, no account will be taken of the salary you have given up or the value of the benefit you receive in its place. This may reduce your entitlement to MA or may mean that you will not be entitled to MA as your average earnings may fall below the MAT.
If you are a student in receipt of a bursary, your bursary is not treated as earnings for MA purposes.
If you are self-employed and do not have a small earnings exception certificate, for any week covered by a Class 2 NI contribution you will be treated as having enough earnings to result in the standard rate of MA, payable at the end of the week covered by a Class 2 NI contribution. This means that:
- From 11 April 2011 treated as earning £143.03
- From 9 April 2012 treated as earning £150.50
- From 8 April 2013 treated as earnings £151.98
Jobcentre Plus will ask HM Revenue & Customs to confirm the information you give about your Class 2 NI contributions on your MA claim form.
If you are self-employed and hold a small earnings exception certificate, you will be treated as having earnings equal to the MAT at the end of any week covered by your certificate. This means you are treated as earning £30 a week. This applies even if you pay a class 2 NI contribution for a week which is also covered by the certificate. Send this certificate in with your MA claim form.
If you are employed and self-employed, earnings from your employment and earnings you are treated as having from self-employment can be added together to help you get as much MA as you can (upto a maximum of the standard rate).