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What is maternity allowance? Here's everything you need to know

Updated 06 May 2022

4min read

Kate Morgan
Staff Writer

Whether you’re an expectant mother or partner, you’ll no doubt have the financial side of parenthood firmly in your mind.

This starts with the maternity period, so it’s important to be aware of maternity allowance if statutory pay isn’t an option.  

What is maternity allowance? Here's everything you need to know

What is maternity allowance? 

Maternity allowance is a social security benefit you can receive if you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay.

You can claim maternity allowance when you have been pregnant for 26 weeks, and payments can start 11 weeks before your baby is due. 

How does maternity allowance work? 

If you qualify for maternity allowance, the funding is paid directly to you every two or four weeks in arrears.

To apply, you’ll need to download and complete a maternity allowance MA1 claim form. The allowance will be offered if you meet a set of eligibility criteria that differs from statutory maternity pay and is designed to support those who work but aren’t in full-time employment.  

How much maternity allowance will I get? 

The amount you’ll receive is dependent on various factors surrounding your eligibility.

As a tax-free allowance, you can expect to receive one of the below, depending on your circumstances: 

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) up to a maximum of £156.66 (2022/23) a week for 39 weeks 

  • £27 a week for 39 weeks, or 

  • £27 a week for 14 weeks. 

You will also receive automatic Class 1 NI credits while you’re getting maternity allowance. These credits count towards your state pension entitlement. 

If you’d like to find out how much you could receive as maternity allowance, you can head to the UK government website, where a free tool will calculate the amount based on your current employment and financial circumstances.  

Learning more about maternity allowance eligibility 

There are many circumstances that may mean you apply for maternity allowance rather than statutory maternity pay.

If your employer has told you that you are ineligible for statutory maternity pay, they must give you an SPM1 form to explain why.

If you have more than one employer, each one must give you a separate form. 

Other instances in which you may not be entitled to statutory maternity pay include: 

  • You were not employed in the 15th week before the week your baby is due 

  • You have not been employed by the same employer for long enough 

  • You have not been earning enough. 

If one of the following applies to you, you may instead be entitled to maternity allowance:  

  • You’re employed but can’t claim statutory maternity pay 

  • You’re self-employed and paying Class 2 NI contributions – including voluntary NI contributions 

  • You’ve recently stopped working. 

These only formally apply if the below is accurate during the 66-week period before your baby is due, often called a ‘test period’: 

  • You have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks, and 

  • You have earned £30 or more a week for at least 13 of those weeks (the weeks don’t have to be together).  

How long is maternity allowance paid for? 

Maternity allowance is paid for up to 39 weeks. You can start your claim from week 26 of your pregnancy, but the earliest you can get your first payment is 11 weeks before your baby is due.  

There are also circumstances in which you can claim maternity allowance for just a portion of those 39 weeks.

This can include if you have not paid enough Class 2 NI while self-employed, or have participated in the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner without pay. 

What about claiming maternity allowance while self-employed? 

If you’re self-employed, maternity allowance can still prove to be a valuable boost to your household income when you take time off to have a baby.  

To get the full 39 weeks of maternity allowance of £156.66 per week, you need to have paid Class 2 NI contributions for at least 13 of the 66-week test period before your baby’s due date.

It’s important to note that when you make your claim, The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will check to make sure that you have paid enough Class 2 NI contributions. 

If you haven’t though, you may still meet enough criteria to receive £27 per week for the full period.

And if you want to make extra NI contributions to ensure you do get the full amount, you can contact HMRC.  

Maternity allowance while unemployed 

Things might look a little different if you’re unemployed. You may still qualify if you have recently stopped working, and it does not matter if you’ve had different jobs or periods of unemployment.

However, you must have been employed and/or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66-week test period. 

What if I’m not eligible for maternity allowance?  

If, for some reason, you’re not eligible for maternity allowance, or other types of maternity pay, there are other means of financial support that may be available to you.

You could be eligible for Universal Credit, or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), which are extremely helpful financial aids.   

It’s important to remember though that while it doesn’t affect your tax credits, maternity allowance can have an impact on ESA, Carer’s Allowance, Universal Credit or other benefits that you may already be receiving.  

How to apply for maternity allowance 

To claim maternity allowance, you’ll need to head to the government website and fill out a maternity allowance (MA1) claim form.

This can be filled in digitally or physically, before being sent by mail back to the address on the form.

You’ll also need to provide: 

  • Proof of your income, such as original payslips or a Certificate of Small Earnings Exemption (if applicable for the 2014 to 2015 tax year) 

  • Proof of the baby’s due date, such as a letter from the doctor or midwife or your MATB1 certificate 

  • Your SMP1 form - only if you were refused statutory maternity pay by your employer. 

The form itself has notes that will help you to fill it in, and you’ll need to provide various details about your employment during the 66-week test period. 

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About the author
Kate has written for leading publications and blue chip companies over the last 20 years.