Statutory maternity pay
First introduced in 1987, statutory maternity pay (SMP) is the payment made to eligible women, who take a period of maternity leave either prior to, or from, the date their baby is born. Here, the CIPP’s policy lead Samantha O’Sullivan provides an overview of how the payments work.
To qualify for payment of SMP, a woman needs to meet certain eligibility criteria. They are as follows:
• the woman must provide their employer with sufficient notice (a minimum of 28 days before they want to stop work)
• they must provide proof they are pregnant – this can be a letter from their doctor or midwife, or a form MATB1
• they must earn at least the lower earnings limit in their 8 week ‘relevant period’*
• they must have been working for their employer continuously for a minimum of 26 weeks continuing into the qualifying week**
• they must be an employee, and not a worker.
This article focuses on payment of SMP only, but employers can pay more than the rate of SMP if they wish. Details of any enhanced maternity pay should be included in company documents provided to staff.
• payment for weeks 1-6 equates to 90% of the average weekly earnings (AWE)
• payment for weeks 7-39 equates to the current amount of SMP (£156.66 for 2022/23), or 90% of AWE, whichever is lower.
The payment should be made to employees through payroll, and subject to standard deductions. It will also be included in the year-to-date figure reported on the full payment submission (FPS).
Larger employers can reclaim 92% of SMP through the employer payment summary (EPS), while those that qualify for small employers’ relief*** can reclaim 103% through the same mechanism.
Records relating to SMP must be kept for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and they include:
• proof of the pregnancy – a form MatB1 or a doctor’s note
• the date SMP began
• details of SMP payments made, along with dates
• SMP amounts reclaimed
• any weeks SMP wasn’t paid and the reason why.
Records must be retained for a minimum period of three years from the end of the tax year they relate to. An SMP2 form can be used for this, or employers may choose to keep their own records. The SMP2 form can be located here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/472810/SMP2_10_15.pdf
A European Court of Justice case, which impacts how an employee’s AWE is calculated for the purposes of SMP when an employee is given a pay rise, is referred to as ‘alabaster’.
If an employee receives a pay rise that takes effect from any time between the start of the eight-week set period for calculating SMP and the end of the woman’s statutory maternity leave, then a relevant pay adjustment must be made.
Guidance on how to make an alabaster calculation is available within HMRC’s Statutory Payments Manual, which can be accessed here: SPM172200 - Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) - SMP: backdated pay awards - HMRC internal manual - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
* The ‘relevant period’ is usually the 8-week period before the qualifying week.
** The ‘qualifying week’ is the 15th week prior to the expected week of childbirth.
*** To qualify for small employers’ relief, employers must have only been liable to pay class 1 National Insurance (NI) contributions equating to £45,000 or less in the qualifying tax year.