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Statutory maternity pay (SMP)

If an employee is expecting a baby, she may be entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP).

At the employer’s discretion, SMP may:

  • replace the employee’s normal wages
  • be paid to the employee as part of their normal wage amount
  • be paid in addition to their normal wages

All female employees are entitled to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. SMP can be paid for up to 39 weeks.

When does SMP begin?

Normally, the employee can choose to start her period of SMP at any time between the following two dates:

  • the beginning of the 11th week before the baby is due
  • the day after the baby is actually born

The employee should give you 28 days’ notice of when she wants to start her SMP.

If the baby is born before the earlier of the dates above, the SMP period begins the day after the baby is born. If the baby is born before the date SMP was due to start, the SMP period begins the day after the baby is born.

If she leaves your employment between the earlier of the dates above, but before any date that would otherwise trigger the beginning of the SMP period, for example the SMP start date she originally gave you, she is still entitled to SMP, and must begin receiving it on the day after she leaves your employment. For further information, please refer to the section The employee is leaving this employment.

The start of the SMP period can also be affected by a pregnancy-related absence by the employee. For further information, please refer to the section Pregnancy-related absences from work.


Qualifying criteria

To quailfy for SMP, the employee must satisfy the following criteria:

  • 26 weeks of continuous employment prior to the qualifying week – The employee must have been continuously employed by the same employer in the 26 weeks immediately prior to the qualifying week. The qualifying week is the 15th week before the baby is due to be born.
  • 11th week before due date – At the start of the 11th week before the birth due date, the employee must either still be pregnant, or have already had the baby. If the baby is not already born by this week, the employee can start Maternity Leave on this week. If the baby is born earlier than this, she can start her maternity leave when the baby is born.
  • Average weekly earnings (AWE) – The employee’s average weekly earnings (AWE) amount must be equal to or exceed a level set by HMRC.
  • 28 days’ notice of SMP – Normally the employee is required to provide the employer with at least 28 days’ notice of her intention to avail of SMP.
  • Form MATB1 – The employee must complete Form MATB1 and present it to her employer as evidence of the need for Maternity Leave. You must retain this form for at least 3 years after the year to which it relates. This is to ensure that it’s available in the event of an HMRC audit.


If the employee doesn’t qualify for SMP

In this case, the employer presents Form SMP1 to the employee. This form enables the employee to apply for Maternity Allowance at their local Jobcentre Plus office.


Pregnancy-related absences

If the employee needs to take time off work because of her pregnancy, this may affect her maternity leave and SMP. This happens if the absence falls within some or all of the following span of time:

  • Start: The Sunday beginning the fourth week before her baby is due.
  • End: The baby’s due date.

Maternity leave then begins the day after the first complete day of pregnancy-related absence within this timespan. The employee begins to receive SMP on the same day.

For more information about this, contact your local HMRC office or the Employer Helpline on 0845 714 3143.


SSP disqualifying period for pregnant employees

An employee who receives SMP or maternity allowance (MA) cannot receive SSP during the 39-week time when SMP or MA is payable.

If the employee is not entitled to either SMP or MA, she is not entitled to SSP during the 18 weeks that begins on the earlier of the following:

  • The start of the week in which her baby is born.
  • The start of the week in which she is first off sick because of her pregnancy, if this is on or after the start of the fourth week before her baby is due.

If she is receiving SSP, her entitlement to SSP ends on the earlier of the following:

  • The date on which her baby is born.
  • The day she is first off sick because of her pregnancy, if this falls within the Sunday beginning the fourth week before the baby is due, and the baby’s due date.

If the absence occurs after the 39-week period in which she is entitled to SMP or MA, you should apply the normal qualifying rules for SSP.

If the absence begins before or during the 39-week SMP period, she is not entitled to SSP until another unlinked absence occurs at least eight weeks after the end of that absence.

For example, if the empoyee is sick on the day she is due to start work after her SMP or MA has finished, she could be entitled to SSP if she meets the other qualifying conditions.

However, if she is sick during the last week of her SMP or MA and won’t be able to return to work, she is disqualified from SSP throughout that particular absence.


Is a leaver still entitled to SMP?

If the employee leaves this employment, she is nevertheless entitled to SMP from this employer if she satisfies the qualifying criteria above.

The reason for her leaving, and her not returning to this employment doesn’t affect this entitlement. Even if she starts with a different employer before her baby is born, this employer is still liable to pay her SMP.


When does SMP start for a leaver?

If she leaves this employment before the Sunday of the 11th week before the baby is due, her SMP normally begins on that Sunday.

However, if the baby is born before that date, her SMP begins on the day after the baby is born.

The SMP begins on the day after her leaving date if the leaving date falls between:

  • the Sunday of the 11th week before the baby is due
  • any date that would trigger the beginning of the SMP period if she remained in this employment, such as the SMP start date she has given the employer


SMP rates

For the first six weeks of maternity leave, SMP is 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings (AWE).

After the first six weeks, the SMP amount is either the weekly standard rate set by HMRC, or 90% of the employee’s AWE, whichever is less.

The AWE amount is normally calculated as follows:

@ AWE = (Total earnings in the relevant period) / (Number of weeks in the relevant period’) @

The relevant period’ is the span of time between the following two dates:

  • Start date: The day after the last normal payday that falls eight weeks or more before the End Date.
  • End date: The last normal payday on or before the Saturday of the qualifying week. The qualifying week is the 15th week before the week that the baby is due.


Recovering SMP payments from HMRC

If you’ve reclaimed SMP, you can see this amount on your P32 report.

An employer is entitled to recover certain amounts of SMP by deducting them from PAYE, NIC and Student Loan liabilities to HMRC.

The amount recoverable depends on the previous year’s Class 1 NIC contributions:

  • Employer’s annual Class 1 NIC total contribution for the previous tax year is below the threshold set by HMRC:

The employer is entitled to recover 100% of SMP payments plus an amount of compensation for any NICs the employer pays on SMP payments.

  • Employer’s annual Class 1 NIC total contribution for the previous tax year exceeds the threshold set by HMRC:

The employer is entitled to recover 92% of any SMP payments.

Further information about statutory maternity pay

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