If you’re pregnant and you work for yourself, you may be entitled to self-employed maternity pay, known as ‘Maternity Allowance’.
Maternity Allowance is a benefit paid by the Department for Work and Pensions to pregnant women who do not otherwise qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay because for example they are self-employed.
Do I qualify for maternity allowance?
You will be eligible for self-employed Maternity Allowance if you satisfy the following criteria:
- You have been self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week you expect to have your baby. This is known as the test period. Weeks when you have not worked a full week will still count towards your 26 weeks.
- Your average gross weekly earnings have been at least £30 a week for 13 weeks during your test period. These weeks do not have to be in a row.
- You have stopped work to have your baby.
The qualifying conditions for Maternity Allowance 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 “expected week of childbirth”.
Maternity Allowance is also available to pregnant mothers who are neither employed nor self-employed, but regularly take part in the self-employed business of their spouse or civil partner. You will need to have been doing work for the business for at least 26 weeks of your test period for this to apply.
When must I claim?
The earliest you can claim Maternity Allowance is at the start of the 14th week before the expected week of childbirth. Payments can begin 11 weeks before your baby is due at the earliest, and the day after your baby is born at the latest.
If your baby is born early, you should claim Maternity Allowance straight away after your baby is born. Your test period will not change.
How much maternity allowance am I entitled to?
The amount of Maternity Allowance you will receive will depend on your Class 2 National Insurance contributions. If you are registered as self-employed and have paid these contributions for at least 13 weeks of your test period, you will generally be entitled to receive the full amount of Maternity Allowance at a rate of £148.68 for up to 39 weeks. This is the maximum period payable for this type of self-employed parental pay.
When you make your claim, the Department for Work and Pensions will check that you have paid sufficient Class 2 NI contributions. If you haven’t paid enough to get the full rate, you will receive £27 a week for up to 39 weeks, provided you meet the other criteria. However, you may still be able to get the full rate by making early NI payments.
You do not, however, pay tax or NI contributions on any Maternity Allowance itself.
If you are not employed or self-employed, but you take part in activities related to the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner, Maternity Allowance is only payable at a rate of £27 a week for up to 14 weeks. Here your spouse or partner must have been registered as self-employed and have paid sufficient Class 2 National Insurance contributions.
If you work for yourself you are required by law to register your self-employed status with HM Revenue & Customs. If you, or your spouse or partner, do not register or register late, you may lose some or all of your entitlement to Maternity Allowance.
Further, if you are in receipt of other benefits, or your spouse, civil partner or anyone else is claiming benefits on your behalf, this may affect the total amount of Maternity Allowance that you are entitled to.
How do I claim maternity allowance?
You can claim self-employed maternity pay using form MA1. If you are claiming before your baby is born, you will need to provide proof of your expected week of childbirth. This will be documented on Part A of your Maternity Certificate (MAT B1). Your midwife will provide you with this certificate after your 20 week scan.
If you are claiming after your baby is born, you will need to send your certificate completed at Part B. If Part B has not been completed, you must send your baby’s birth certificate instead.
As a self-employed applicant proof of earnings are not required to establish the rate of Maternity Allowance. However, on receipt of your MA1 claim form, checks will be made with HM Revenue & Customs to see if you have been registered as self-employed and/or whether Class 2 NI contributions have been paid.
Am I entitled to any other type of self-employed parental pay?
Statutory Maternity and Paternity Pay are only payable by an employer to an employee working under a contract of employment. Accordingly, as an expectant mother or father working for yourself, you will not qualify for the statutory pay.
You may however be eligible for Statutory Maternity (or Paternity) Pay if you are employed on a part-time basis whilst also self-employed. To qualify you must have been continuously employed for a period not less than 26 weeks by the 15th week before the child is due and earn on average at least equal to the lower earnings limit for NI contributions, ie; £116 per week.
If you receive Statutory Maternity Pay, you will no longer qualify for Maternity Allowance for any period of self-employment.
Is there an equivalent allowance for self-employed fathers?
As it stands, there is no equivalent to Statutory Paternity Pay, or any other kind of self-employed parental pay for fathers who work for themselves. Accordingly, expectant father wanting to take time off work to care for their child or support the child’s mother will need to plan ahead. In most cases, this will mean taking unpaid time off without any financial assistance.
Other benefits for self-employed parents to be
If you are not eligible to claim either Maternity Allowance or Statutory Maternity or Paternity Pay, you may instead qualify for Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support or Universal Credit.
Further, if this is your first child and you or your partner are in receipt of benefits such as Income Support or Jobseeker’s Allowance, you may be eligible to apply for the Sure Start Maternity Grant. This is a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a baby.
Once you have had the baby, you will also be able to claim Child Benefit, and may be eligible for Child Tax Credit. Your local Jobcentre Plus or Citizens Advice Bureau should be able to provide you with further information and guidance on what you are entitled to claim by way of self-employed parental pay.
How much maternity allowance am I entitled to?
The amount of maternity allowance you will receive will depend on your NI contributions. If you are registered as self-employed and have paid these contributions for at least 13 weeks of your test period, you will be entitled to receive the full amount of £148.68 for up to 39 weeks.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.