Maternity Allowance

If you’re self-employed, or an employee but haven’t been working for your employer for long enough or your average pay is less than £112 a week, you won’t be able to claim Statutory Maternity Pay, but you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance.

What is Maternity Allowance?

Maternity Allowance is a benefit paid to pregnant women by the government. You can claim it as soon as you have been pregnant for 26 weeks. If you’re registered as self-employed, you’re probably eligible.

You’ll also be able to claim Maternity Allowance if:

  • you haven’t been in a new job long enough to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay
  • have only just left a job
  • your average pay is less than £112 a week (in the tax year 2016-17)

However, you won’t get it if:

  • you’re unemployed
  • you haven’t been working
  • earn less than £30 a week

You can find out more about whether you qualify for Maternity Allowance on the GOV.UK website.

How much is Maternity Allowance?

How much Maternity Allowance you’re entitled to is based on how much you earn. You’ll get 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) up to a maximum of £139.58 per week for up to 39 weeks (in the tax year 2016-17), or £27 a week for up to 14 weeks.

Maternity Allowance is tax free and you will normally also receive Class 1 National Insurance credits automatically during the period that you receive the allowance. This is important because they count towards your State Pension entitlement.

How long is it available for?

Maternity Allowance is paid for a maximum of 39 weeks and you can start claiming 11 weeks before your baby is due.

Maternity Allowance contact number and how you can claim

If you want to claim Maternity Allowance, you can contact your Jobcentre Plus (or Jobs and Benefits Office in Northern Ireland), or download a claim form.

Call Jobcentre Plus: 0800 055 6688

Call Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland: 02890 823318

Download a claim form from the GOV.UK website.

Case study

“Being my own boss was great, but when I needed to take time off to have Josh, I thought I’d just discovered the big downside – no Statutory Maternity Pay. Then I found out about Maternity Allowance. What a relief! Dead easy to claim, and I got the maximum amount each week. More than £5,000 tax free.” – Sharon, 35 years old, mother of 2 year old Josh

What if you’re not eligible for Maternity Allowance?

Even if you don’t qualify for Maternity Allowance, there are still options. You might be able to get another benefit such as Employment and Support Allowance or Income Support instead.

Whether you qualify will depend on things like:

  • your National Insurance record
  • how many weeks pregnant you are
  • whether there would be a risk to yours or your baby’s health if you worked

This whole area is quite complicated. If you’re pregnant or you’ve just had a baby and you don’t think you qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, why not talk to an experienced adviser? For example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau or a Jobcentre Plus.

Find your local Citizens Advice Bureau on their website.

Call Jobcentre Plus: 0800 055 6688

Call the Social Security Agency in Northern Ireland: 02890 823318

Income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support will be phased out and replaced by Universal Credit.

Find out more about how you might be affected in our guide Universal Credit explained.

Read our guide What am I entitled to when pregnant?.

If you can’t get Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, you could:

  • consider taking annual leave or unpaid parental leave
  • ask your employer if you can switch to more flexible working