How to plan for maternity leave (whether employed or self-employed)

Whether you are employed or self-employed, as a mother-to-be, you will be entitled to some form of maternity pay or allowance while you take time off to look after your new baby. This extract from the super-practical guide The Dos and Don’ts of Pregnancy by Louise Baty offers some key advice.


Start thinking about maternity leave – Now you’re in your second trimester, you need to decide when you’d like to take your maternity leave. It may seem early but, legally, you must have informed your employer of your intent to take maternity leave at least 15 weeks before your due date. If you’re not taking Statutory Maternity Leave, you must take two weeks off after the birth – or four weeks if you work in a factory. This is known as compulsory maternity leave and it’s the law.

Tell your employer you’re pregnant

You may not have wanted to share your news in the first trimester, before your 12-week scan. But, as we’ve already mentioned, all employees are legally obliged to tell their employer about their pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the baby is due. Bear in mind that you can’t take time off for antenatal appointments before you’ve told your boss about your pregnancy.

Inform them in writing

Check with your HR department whether they’d prefer an email or letter. You need to tell your boss your due date and the date you’d like to start your Statutory Maternity

Leave and Pay

Collect your MATB1 form – You probably won’t have heard of this form before now but it’s very, very important and you can’t get maternity pay without it. Your midwife should give you the form at your antenatal appointment which takes place aft er your 20-week scan. But you may need to give your midwife a nudge and ask for it yourself. Your midwife or GP should sign the form and you will also need to sign it. Give the form to your employer before you’re 25 weeks pregnant.

To avoid your maternity leave and pay arrangements being delayed, you must give the signed form to your employer or HR department before you’re 25 weeks pregnant (15 weeks before your due date).

However, some mums-to-be may find that their midwife or GP won’t sign their form before they’re 25 weeks pregnant – or that they don’t actually see their midwife until they’re around 24 or 25 weeks pregnant. In this case, it’s a good idea to speak to your employer or HR department to let them know that you will give them your form as soon as you get it – so that your maternity leave and pay can still be arranged accordingly.

Know what to do if you can’t get Statutory Maternity Pay

Some employed women aren’t eligible for maternity pay. But they should be able to claim Maternity Allowance instead – see below for more details. Be aware that you will need an SMP1 form to do this.

IF YOU’RE SELF-EMPLOYED…51iHiCtu6rL._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_

If you’re your own boss, you’re not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay. However, you can claim Maternity Allowance, a benefit paid to all self-employed pregnant women by the government. You can claim your Maternity Allowance once you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks so it’s a good idea to get clued up about what you need to do in order to prepare to claim.

Fill in your MA1 claim form

The MA1 claim form is your ticket to your Maternity Allowance. You won’t get anything without it. You can find it on either print it off and fill it in by hand or fill it in online, print it off and then post it to the address on the form. As mentioned above, you can claim from 26 weeks and payments can start 11 weeks before your baby is due. If you want to claim as soon as possible, it’s a good idea to have everything sorted before you hit your third trimester.

Know what paperwork you need to claim

Along with your MA1 form, you’ll need to provide: proof of income (payslips, Certificate of Small Earnings Exemption), proof of the baby’s due date (letter from GP or midwife or MATB1 form). If you are claiming because you’re not eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay from your employer, you also need an SMP1 form.

Know when to expect an answer

You should hear back about your claim within 14 working days. Providing you are eligible and your claim has been accepted, you will be sent another form to confirm your entitlement. You will be asked to confirm your last day of employment before you go on maternity leave.

If you’re unemployed…

It’s a good idea to start looking into this now so you’re fully prepared when your baby arrives. For more information visit

If you’re a single parent…

You will be eligible for financial help in the form of benefits and you may also be able to receive child maintenance payments, with help from the Child Support Agency (CSA). For more information, go to

Extracted from The Dos and Don’ts of Pregnancy by Louise Baty. Published by Summerscale 2016. £7.99. Available from


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