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Maternity Allowance

What you need to know

If you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance (MA).


You can claim MA if:

  • You have been working for at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the Expected Week of Childbirth
  • You can find 13 weeks (not necessarily in a row) in which you earned over £30 per week on average

When claiming Maternity Allowance you can add together earnings from more than one job and you should make sure that you choose the weeks in which you earned the most.

Both employed and self-employed work counts for Maternity Allowance.

You can also claim MA if you are the spouse or civil partner of a self-employed person and you help in their business.

Maternity Allowance for self-employed women

A self-employed person is treated as having the following earnings regardless of the amount you actually earn:

  • If you pay a class 2 NI contribution, you will be treated as earning £139.58 a week (April 2016-April 2017).
  • If you hold a small earnings exception certificate from NI, you will be treated as earning £30 a week (the MA threshold).

If you wish to claim MA and you have not yet done your Self-Assessment tax return and paid Class 2 NICs, you should contact Jobcentre Plus and make your claim for MA as soon as possible. You will be given the opportunity to pay Class 2 NICs before they are due in order to qualify for MA at the standard rate.

You should contact Jobcentre Plus if you have not paid enough Class 2 NICs to qualify for MA when you make your claim. HMRC will let you know how to make an early payment of Class 2 NICs.

Adoptive parents can’t claim MA there is also no equivalent for fathers who don't qualify for Statutory Paternity Pay, this needs to change. Support the campaign for parental pay equality.

Employment and Support Allowance

You may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay or MA, but have done some work in the last three years but not recently.

The rate of ESA varies according to your circumstances. It is paid from six weeks before your baby is due until two weeks after your baby is born.

You can claim ESA if:

  • you have paid or been credited with enough National Insurance contributions during the last three tax years that do not overlap the current calendar year.

It is also possible to get ESA if you are incapable of working because of illness or disability

MU Maternity and Parental Rights Grants

Did you know MU members can apply for a £250 adoption / maternity / paternity grant?  Apply online now.

For more advice on MA or MU adoption / maternity / paternity grants, please contact your MU Regional Office.

This guidance has been developed in conjunction with Maternity Action.