If you are employee and you go on maternity leave – you will generally be paid SMP by your employer (subject to meeting the qualifying conditions)

But what if you are self employed? 

Maternity Allowance (MA) is a benefit for women who are working but do not qualify for SMP.

It is payable at one of 2 rates:

  1. £148.68 per week or
  2. £27 a week

and is payable for 39 weeks.

Which Rate will I get?

The amount you get, depends on whether you have paid class 2 NIC or not.  If you have, then you will get the full rate of £148.68 per week.  If you haven’t then you will only get the lower rate.  This is one reason why it is really important to register with HMRC as being self-employed and to voluntarily pay your class 2 NIC (even if your self-employed earnings are low and mean you could qualify for an exemption from paying it.)

As class 2 NIC is now not paid until the end of the tax year, when you submit your claim for MA, you will be told if you need to pay your class 2 NIC early to get you the maximum MA rate, and how you can do this.


To be eligible for MA, you need to have worked for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks (that’s 15 months) before your baby is due.  The work does not have to have been continuous.  You must also have earned more than £30 a week in 13 of those weeks.

How do I claim?

To claim, you need to complete and submit form MA1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maternity-allowance-claim-form

You can claim MA once you have been pregnant for 26 weeks and payments can start 11 weeks before your baby is due. You chose when your payments start, so you could start them just before your baby is due or up to 11 weeks before your due date.   Don’t delay in claiming as you can only backdate a claim in certain circumstances.  MA is payable either every 2 or every 4 weeks in arrears.

If you are actually an employee, but do not meet the qualifying conditions to be able to claim SMP, either because you have not been at the company long enough, or you do not earn enough, then you may still be able to claim MA as an alternative.

The HRMC website gives you more information about MA and further links to additional information: https://www.gov.uk/maternity-allowance

If you require any further information, please contact Rosie Forsyth at Wilkins & Co.