To receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) the pregnant employee must have been continuously employed by the same employer for at least 26 weeks up to and including at least one day in the 15th week (aka ‘qualifying week’), before the week in which the baby is due.
The woman needs to be employed during those 26 weeks, but there is no rule to say she must be paid at a minimum rate for the entire period, or that she has to have an employment contract.
To qualify for any SMP at all the woman must be paid at least £116 per week on the Saturday at the end of the qualifying week. So it is quite possible for an employee who starts on very low or nil pay to qualify for SMP, if their pay is increased later in their employment period.
The amount of SMP payable for the first six weeks is 90% of the woman’s average weekly earnings, paid in the eight-week period up to the qualifying week. The SMP for the remaining 33 weeks of the SMP period is the lower of £145.18 (for 2018/19) and the weekly SMP paid for the first six weeks. An employer may pay more than the SMP amounts if they wish.
Another pre-condition of SMP is that the woman must give her employer notice of her pregnancy. This is normally done on form MAT B1; but the notice may also be given to the employer verbally.
There are slightly different qualifying conditions for maternity leave, which lasts 52 weeks. A woman may qualify for maternity leave but not for SMP. We can help you work out what you need to do when your employee reveals she is pregnant.