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Know your rights before you go on maternity leave

If you're a new parent, it can be tricky managing that work/life balance with the demands of paying off your credit card and household utilities.

Therefore, it's important to know exactly what pay you're entitled to when you go on maternity or paternity leave. Confused.com's guide will help you to know your rights.

Statutory pay

In a nutshell, if you've been employed by your current company for 26 weeks by the time you are 15 weeks away from giving birth and you're earning more than £90 a week, you're entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay from your employer.

If you're unemployed, or have been in your current job less than 26 weeks, you're entitled to Maternity Allowance, which is paid by the state.

You can claim Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for up to 39 weeks but you need to tell your employer at least 28 days before the date you wish to start claiming. The earliest you can take it is 11 weeks before your baby's due.

SMP is calculated at 90% of your average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, then up to £117.18 (£123.06 from April 5, 2009) for the remaining 33 weeks.

Company pay

The amount you get from your employer depends on whether the company has its own maternity pay scheme.

Check with your HR department for the exact details, but some companies pay your full salary for the first six weeks of maternity leave and offer extras after that.

If you can't get SMP from your employer, you may be entitled to the Maternity Allowance, which is £117.18 (£123.06 from April 5, 2009) for up to 39 weeks.

Tapping into extra benefits

You're entitled to take up to 52 weeks' maternity leave in total. If your baby was born after October 5, 2008, your employer must continue to give your contractual benefits, e.g. gym membership, and your pension throughout your leave.

And to stay up-to-date with office life, you can take up to 10 'Keep In Touch' days, allowing you to come into work during maternity leave.


Your employer may also offer a return-to-work bonus, which you can get as a lump sum when your leave ends. There may also be childcare vouchers and flexible working schemes available, which can help to ease you back in.


Government boosts


There are a number of financial benefits from the Government for expectant and new mums, which help with the costs of bringing up a baby. So you don't have to rely too heavily on your savings.


From April 2009, all mums-to-be can claim a one-off tax-free payment of £190, called the Health In Pregnancy Grant. Once you're more than 25 weeks pregnant, you can get a claim form from your midwife, who will confirm your due date.


Alternatively, if you, or your partner, are on Income Support or receiving a Jobseeker's Allowance, you're eligible for the Sure Start Maternity Grant - a one-off tax-free payment of £500 to help with the cost of bringing up your child.


Benefits from birth


Once your baby's born, you might be entitled to tax credits if you work, but earn a low wage. Any parent with children under the age of 16 can claim a Child Benefit. This gives £20 a week for your eldest child and £13.20 a week for each child after that.


If you're already receiving a benefit or you're pregnant and under 18, you could qualify for Healthy Start vouchers, worth £3 a week. These can be used to buy milk, fruit and veg.


Find out more about these benefits and exactly what you're entitled to at www.directgov.uk.


Taking paternity leave


For all those expectant fathers, when your other half gives birth, you might be able to claim Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) from your employer.


To qualify, you must be the biological father or be taking responsibility for the child's upbringing. You must earn more than £90 a week and have been working for your employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the baby's due.


After telling your employer you plan to take leave, you can take two weeks of SPP, which is £117.18 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings if this is less.


Before baby arrives


Sorting out your maternity and paternity pay is one of the many things to do before your baby arrives. Then there's the shopping list: prams, baby clothes, car seats, toys - your credit card could be in overdrive!


So set some time aside to sort your finances. Have you cleared your credit card? Are you on top of mortgage payments? Compare all of these and sign up for a great deal with Confused.com.

Once that's done, it's time to think about savings. If you're pregnant or planning a family and are currently in full-time employment, the drop in wages can be hard to swallow when you decide to leave and bring up a baby. So as soon as you possibly can, you may want to consider making time to get a good savings account or ISA and stash as much cash in it as you can!





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