Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) Rates & Eligibility

Last updated: April 2021

Recent Update: For the 2021 – 2022 Tax Year:
Minimum weekly pay to qualify for SMP: this will remain at £120 per week.
Weekly SMP rate after initial 6 weeks: this is a maximum of £151.97 per week.


When an employee is pregnant, it’s imperative that they receive the correct maternity pay and leave entitlement that they deserve. As a business, working out how much pay a pregnant employee is entitled to and if they meet the eligibility criteria can be a prolonged process. IRIS FMP is able to take this process off your hands as we provide fully managed payroll services to ensure your employees’ Statutory Maternity Pay is processed and delivered both accurately and on time.

What is Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)?

If eligible, employees are entitled to receive Statutory Maternity Leave, Statutory Maternity Pay, paid time off for antenatal care (including medical appointments and classes) and additional Government help when pregnant.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid the same way an employee is paid their weekly/monthly wages for up to 39 weeks – tax and national insurance will also be deducted.

For the first 6 weeks, those who are eligible will receive 90% of their average weekly earnings.

Thereafter, (for up to 33 weeks), they will receive 90% of their weekly average earnings, or a rate of £151.20 per week  (increased to £151.97 for tax year 2021/2022) – whichever is lower.

To give you an idea, in the UK the average salary for a woman is around £25,336 (at the time of writing). Using this salary as a guideline, 90% of the average woman’s weekly earnings is around £438 before tax.

Eligibility for Statutory Maternity Pay

To be eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay, an employee must:

  • Provide sufficient notice (the employer must be notified at least 15 weeks before the baby is due, and have at least 28 days notice before the woman would like SMP to start)
  • Have worked consistently for the employer for a period of 26 weeks up until the ‘qualifying week’, which is the 15th week prior to the expected childbirth
  • Earn a minimum of £120 a week
  • Provide supporting proof that they’re pregnant – this can be a doctor’s/midwife’s letter or a MATB1 certificate

Normally, Statutory Maternity Pay starts as soon as you take maternity leave. Maternity Leave can start:

  • As early as 11 weeks before an employee’s baby is due
  • The day following an early childbirth
  • If an employee is off work from a pregnancy-related illness within the 4 weeks prior to the week of the baby’s due date. In this case Maternity Leave will start automatically.

After the employee has given notice of their preferred Maternity Leave start and end dates, the employer must supply written confirmation of this within 28 days. After this, if an employee wants to change their return-to-work date, they must give a minimum of 8 weeks’ notice to their employer.

To be eligible for Maternity Leave, the employee must be classified as such – not a ‘worker’. Find out more about this on the government’s guide to employment statuses.

How to Calculate your Employees’ SMP Entitlement

When working out SMP entitlement, you first need to work out your employee’s average weekly earnings in the ‘relevant period.’ The weekly earnings must be £120 or more in order for the employee to be eligible.

All the employee’s earnings paid in that relevant period should be divided by the number of weeks or months (depending on the frequency of paydays).

Working out the Relevant Period

The end of the ‘relevant period’ is the last normal payday on or before the Saturday of the qualifying week (the 15th week before the baby’s due week).

The start of the ‘relevant period’ is the day after the last normal payday, falling at least 8 weeks before the end of the relevant period.

Weekly paid example (baby due 25th March 2021):

Qualifying Week (QW) Payday START OF RELEVANT PERIOD:

Last payday at least 8 weeks before the end of the relevant period


Last payday on or before the Saturday of the QW

7th – 13th December 2020 Friday 16th October 2020 11th December 2020


With this relevant period, you would add up the earnings paid during this time and divide by the number of weeks (in this example, eight).

Monthly paid example (baby due 25th March 2021)

Qualifying Week (QW) Payday START OF RELEVANT PERIOD:

Last payday at least 8 weeks before the end of the relevant period


Last payday on or before the Saturday of the QW

7th – 13th December 2020 Last working day of the month 30th September 2020 30th November 2020


You would add up the earnings paid during this period, and then divide this number by the number of months in the relevant period. With this total, you must then multiply by 12 and divide by 52 to get the average pay per week.

Once you have worked out your employee’s average weekly earnings, SMP is payable weekly as 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings (AWE) for the first 6 weeks, or £151.20 (£151.97 for 2021/22 tax year) or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower) for the remaining weeks.

How We Can Help

Visit our outsourced payroll solutions page for more information on how IRIS FMP can help remove time-consuming payroll admin and procedures from your working day. Our expertise and attentiveness ensures your employees’ Statutory Maternity Pay is recorded and paid correctly and reliably.

For the complete, in-depth guidelines on Statutory Maternity Pay entitlement, eligibility and exceptions, please visit the Gov website.

Quick Reference FAQs

Q. How much is Statutory Maternity Pay?

A. In the first 6 weeks of Statutory Maternity Pay, eligible employees can receive 90% of their average weekly earnings and then 90% of their weekly average earnings (or £151.20 and £151.97 for 2021/22) after that. Use the SMP calculator to work out an employee’s maternity leave and pay.

Q. How long is Maternity Leave?

A. Maternity leave adds up to 52 weeks in total. This does not have to be taken completely, however an employee must take 2 weeks’ leave (4 weeks if working in a factory) after their child is born.

Q. What are an employee’s maternity rights?

A. Whilst on Maternity Leave and receiving Statutory Maternity Pay, an employee’s employment rights are protected. Employees have rights to pay rises, accrue of holiday and return to work.

Q. In what circumstances would an employee not qualify for SMP?

A. An employee would not qualify for SMP if they did not provide the correct notice (a minimum of 15 weeks before the due date and 28 days when they would like it to start), if they have not worked a minimum of 26 weeks consistently for the employer (until the qualifying week), if they have not provided supporting proof that they are pregnant, or if they earn less than £120 a week.

Q. What is a ‘Qualifying Week’ in SMP terms?

A. The ‘Qualifying Week’ is the 15th week before the week of the baby’s projected birth.

Q. What is the ‘Relevant Period’ in Statutory Maternity Pay?

A. To work out an employee’s ‘Relevant Period’ you need to work out when this ends first. The ‘Relevant Period’ starts:

1 day following the last pay day (at least 8 weeks before the end of the relevant period) and ends on the last payday on/before the Saturday of the qualifying week.

Q. What is Shared Parental Leave (SPL)?

A. Parents now have the choice to share up to 50 weeks of parental leave – 37 of which will be paid to the value of £151.20 per week in the 2020/21 tax year and £151.97 per week in the 2021/21 tax year, or 90% of an employee’s weekly earnings (whichever is lower). While mothers still must take a minimum of two weeks maternity leave after giving birth (or 4 weeks if they work in a factory), after this they can elect to share leave with their partner.

Q. When does maternity pay start?

A. Maternity pay begins on the first day of maternity leave. If an employee has a pregnancy-related illness up to 4 weeks before their due date or is suspended as a result of health and safety, an employer can start maternity leave early.

Q. Can maternity leave be extended?

A. Maternity leave cannot be extended beyond the 52-week allowance currently in place in the United Kingdom. The government has expressed no plans to extend this.  

Q. Can maternity pay be furloughed?

A. According to government guidelines, employers are allowed to claim enhanced maternity pay under the Coronavirus job retention scheme, however, Statutory Maternity Pay must be paid and processed as standard. 

Q. Will maternity pay be affected by furlough?

A. In April 2020, the government announced that maternity and all other parental pay allowances were to be calculated using full salary calculations over actual earnings when placed on furlough. This includes any potential bonuses or commission they would have earnt.  

Q. Due to the risk of Covid-19, can employers make employees take their maternity leave early?

A. If there is a risk to the pregnant employee and they are unable to work from home in accordance with government guidelines, the employer can start the employee’s maternity leaveand paearly. If suspended on health and safety grounds, the employer is entitled to start an employee’s maternity leave up to 4 weeks before their expected week of childbirth.