Here at Redwing Solution, the rules relating to maternity leave and pay tend to be one of our more commonly queried topics, unsurprising given that around 90% of the early years sector is made up of female workers. When it comes to Statutory Maternity Pay, a common mistake we see happen, is employers miscalculating how much an employee should receive in the first 6 weeks of their maternity leave. So, we thought we would recap on these rules to ensure you are confidently informing your pregnant employees of what they will be entitled to!
Statutory Maternity Leave (SML)
Statutory maternity Leave is a day one right and all pregnant employees are entitled to take 52 weeks off, irrespective of length of service. The 52 weeks Statutory Maternity Leave is broken down into two parts, Ordinary Maternity Leave (the first 26 weeks) and Additional Maternity Leave (the final 26 weeks). It’s important to know that the first 2 weeks of maternity leave are known as Compulsory Maternity Leave and the clue is in the title – employees MUST take this time off to recover post birth. Even though it is a day one right, employees are still expected to inform their employer of their pregnancy and when they wish to commence maternity leave, by their ‘qualifying week’.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
So, what is the ‘qualifying week’ I hear you ask? This is the 15th week before the expected due date and is important particularly when calculating an employee’s SMP entitlement.
Unlike SML, for an employee to be eligible for SMP, they must have been employed for at least 26 weeks and provided their employer with proof of pregnancy, i.e. a MAT-B1 form, by the qualifying week. They must also earn at least £123 (the lower earnings limit) per week on average in the 8-week ‘relevant period’.
The 8-week relevant period is in fact very relevant when calculating how much an employee will receive in their first 6 weeks of their maternity leave. Many employers and employees think that the employee will receive 90% of their average weekly wage. However, the pay is actually calculated on their average weekly earnings in the 8 week ‘relevant period’, prior to their qualifying week. Therefore, if your employee worked more or fewer hours than what they are contracted or would normally work during the relevant period, this will be reflected in what they receive in their first 6 weeks of maternity leave. After the first 6 weeks the employee will then go on to receive the Government’s statutory rate for maternity pay for the remaining 33 weeks of their leave, which from April 2023 will increase from £156.66 per week to £172.48.
It’s advised that once your employee has provided you with a copy of their Mat-B1 form and given you a date in which they wish to commence maternity leave, you confirm in writing the details of their maternity leave and pay.
If you need any further advice on this topic, please do not hesitate to give us a call on 01527 909 436. You may also find that our ‘Employee’s Guide to Maternity Leave and Pay’ is a useful tool to have, free to all our retained clients when requested or available to purchase here to non-retained customers.