Mums can get £149 per week in maternity pay even if they don't have a job

IF you're a new self-employed mum (or soon-to-be mum) – you could be entitled to up to £149 a week in maternity allowance.

The benefit is designed to help out mothers who either work for themselves or who are employed by a company but don't qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP).

It can also be paid to expectant mothers who've lost or quit their jobs very recently.

The maximum amount available is 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings (before tax) up to a maximum of £148.68 a week for 39 weeks – this is based on your former job if you've recently lost or quit it.

You can start claiming from the 26th week of your pregnancy, but the earliest you'll start receiving payments is 11 weeks before your due date.

But how much you get and how many weeks it is paid for depends on your employment situation.

People who get maternity allowance also get Class 1 national insurance credits – which can help you build up your state pension – so it's worth claiming even if you don't get the full amount.

Research published earlier this year suggested that hundreds of thousands of self-employed mums weren't claiming their maternity allowance.

How to qualify – self-employed

You need to have been self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before your due date.

You also need to have paid Class 2 national insurance contributions (NICs) for at least 13 of those weeks, though these do not need to be consecutive.

When you claim, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will check if you've made enough NICs.

You can also check in advance for yourself on the government's website here.

If you haven't paid enough national insurance, you can still get £27 a week for 39 weeks as long as you meet the rest of the criteria.

But if you want to boost your maternity allowance you can make additional national insurance contributions.

You can do that when you're claiming or by calling the national insurance helpline on 0300 200 3500.

How to qualify – working

Some companies offer attractive company maternity pay for their staff, but plenty don't.

Even if your employer doesn't have its own package, it still has to offer Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) to qualifying staff.

How does maternity allowance differ from maternity pay?

STATUTORY maternity pay (SMP) is for employees. It is paid for up to 39 weeks and you get:

  • 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks.
  • £148.68 or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.

To get it you must have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the "qualifying week" – the 15th week before the expected due date.

You also need to earn at least £118 a week on average.

If you can't get SMP – then you should check whether you qualify for the Maternity Allowance.

You'll need to have been employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks till your baby is due.

Be aware that you'll also need to have earned £30 a week or more for at least 13 of those weeks – but they don't have to be consecutive.

How to qualify – not working

Generally speaking, you won't get maternity allowance if you're unemployed.

But you might be able to if you've very recently lost your job or given up work.

As long as you've worked for 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before your due date and earned more than £30 for 13 of those weeks, you could still claim the full maternity allowance.

If you're not employed but your partner is self-employed and you help out around the business you might get a limited allowance too.

But the maximum you can get is £27 a week for 14 weeks.

How to apply – everyone

Regardless of whether you're self employed, working for an employer or recently out of work – the application process is the same.

To claim maternity allowance, you need to fill in an MA1 claim form from GOV.UK, print it and post it to the address on the form.

If you don't have access to a printer you can call the Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688 and get one sent to your home.

Of course, you'll need to prove your recent income – for instance with wage slips – and you'll also need to be able to confirm your baby's due date with a letter from the doctor or midwife.

You should be told whether your claim is successful within 24 working days.

Payments are usually paid straight into your bank account, although do be aware that these can affect how much you get from other benefits – including Universal Credit.

Three in ten self-employed mums may be missing out on maternity pay worth more than £5,660.

Thousands of women’s maternity benefits payments have previously also been delayed – here’s how to make sure yours arrives on time.

Here's how to check you’re not missing out on thousands of pounds a year and getting the right benefits.

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