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Maternity rules

Their rights and what you have to do

Employees get Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if they have worked continuously for the same employer for at least 26 weeks up to the 15th week before their child is due; and they must be earning enough for National Insurance purposes.

An employee must give their employer at least 4 weeks notice before stopping work to claim SMP – they will need to give medical evidence on a form MATB1 signed by a doctor or midwife.

SMP is paid for 26 weeks (the government announced plans in 2005 to extend this to 39 and then 52 weeks) - employers must pay women on maternity leave 90 per cent of their average earnings for 6 weeks and then �106, or 90 per cent of average earnings if less, for the remaining 20 weeks. Average earnings must take into account any pay rise that a woman would have received if still at work.

Employers can recover 92% of SMP payments, but small businesses with National Insurance Contributions of less than �40,000 can recover 104.5% (all the SMP payment plus help with costs).

There are also special rules relating to additional maternity leave (leave of 52 weeks) for businesses employing five or fewer people (including the woman getting this leave). At the point where her maternity leave ends, a small business does not have to reinstate her if this is not 'reasonably practicable' (in disputes, Employment Tribunals decide on what this means).

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What next?

HM Revenue and Customs' SMP calculator works out an employee's entitlement to SMP and an employer's funding to cover it.

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