Maternity Benefits

Work and Pensions written question – answered on 4th May 2004.

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Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

(1) whether women who have been in paid employment throughout pregnancy who changed employer during this period will be eligible via (a) statutory maternity pay and (b) maternity allowance for 90 per cent. of average weekly earnings for the first six weeks of paid leave where they have not been employed by their current employer for 26 weeks;

(2) whether the benefits available through maternity allowance are equal to those made through statutory maternity pay for women who have been in paid employment during pregnancy; and if he will make a statement;

(3) if he will make statutory maternity pay available to women who change employer during pregnancy without taking a break; and if he will make a statement;

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and Maternity Allowance (MA) are an integral part of the measures the Government has taken to help parents balance their work and family life.

Both SMP and MA can be paid for up to 26 weeks. SMP is paid by the employer at 90 per cent. of the woman's average weekly earnings for the first six weeks followed by the lesser of £100 a week or the 90 per cent. rate; MA is paid by the Department for Work and Pensions at the lesser of £100 a week or 90 per cent. of the woman's average weekly earnings.

To get SMP, a woman must earn at least £79 a week on average and have been continuously employed by her employer for at least 26 weeks into the 15th week before the week her baby is due. She must therefore have been working for the employer who would be liable to pay SMP to her before she became pregnant and would have worked for the employer for a reasonable period before that employer is asked to administer and meet some of the costs of paying SMP to her.

To get MA, a woman must have been employed and/or self-employed for at least 26 weeks out of the 66 week period ending with the week prior to the week in which her baby is due. The weeks do not have to be continuous and a part week counts as a full week. She must also earn at least £30 a week on average.

The standard rate of both SMP and MA was increased in 2003 to £100 a week. This substantial increase, the biggest since maternity pay was introduced in 1948, coupled with extending the payment period from 18 to 26 weeks mean that most pregnant working women getting SMP or MA are more than £1,200 better off than in 2001.

We currently have no plans to make any further changes to these schemes.

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