While there may be a lot of benefits to being self-employed – including the freedom to work where and when you want – this independence and self-reliance can be a little daunting when you are pregnant. But don’t worry, our accountancy partner Mazuma are on hand to help ease the burden and explain everything you need to know.

Maternity pay for self-employed mums

Mazuma have put together the below guide to answer any questions you may have about maternity pay for self-employed workers.

Maternity leave for self-employed workers

Let’s start with answering the most common question we get asked: Yes, if you are self-employed in the UK you are entitled to paid maternity leave for a maximum of 39 weeks (providing you fulfil the criteria).

For those in employment, Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is the mandatory payment they receive while on maternity leave. However, if you are self-employed that option isn’t available to you. Instead, you are eligible to apply for Maternity Allowance.

Maternity Allowance is the statutory maternity benefit for anyone who does not qualify for SMP – which includes freelancers and self-employed workers.

Check if you are eligible for paid maternity leave when self-employed

The best place to start is the government’s maternity entitlement calculator – it’s a very quick and useful tool. You just need to be aware that the Test Period is the basis for your eligibility assessment – 66 weeks prior to your baby’s due date.

To be eligible for the full Maternity Allowance, you must meet the below requirements:

  • You have been self-employed for at least 26 weeks
  • You have paid Class 2 National Insurance for a minimum of 13 of the 66 weeks in your Test Period
  • You have earned a minimum of £30 per week during the 13 weeks
  • You are not currently claiming Statutory Maternity Pay from an employer

What if you are behind on your National Insurance payments?

If you have fallen behind on your National Insurance payments, then you will still be entitled to Maternity Allowance. You will simply need to contact HMRC and arrange to pay an additional National Insurance contribution to bring you up to date and make sure you meet the above requirements.

For more information on this, read Mazuma’s guide to National Insurance payments for the self-employed.

How to apply for Maternity Allowance

If you have completed the eligibility assessment and think you are eligible for Maternity Allowance, then you can now begin the application process.

To apply, you need to fill in the MA1 form: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maternity-allowance-claim-form. You can choose to either fill it online and then print it, or download it and fill it in with pen. Either way, once you’ve completed the form you need to post it to HMRC (the address is on the form).

It’s worth noting that it can take around five weeks for the Department of Work and Pensions to process your application and respond – so it’s recommended you apply for Maternity Allowance as soon as you are able i.e. when you are 26 weeks into your pregnancy.

Information required to complete your Maternity Allowance application

You don’t need to submit too much information to support your application, but we suggest you take some time to pull all your documentation together to make the process less stressful.

The documentation you need to include is:

  • Your completed MA1 claim form
  • Letter from a doctor/midwife confirming your due date OR your MATB1 certificate
  • Proof of income (payslips, bank statements etc.)
  • If your partner is also self-employed, they may be required to share business information

How much is Maternity Allowance for self-employed mums?

There are two different rates of Maternity Allowance – the Full rate and a Reduced rate for those who haven’t paid enough Class 2 National Insurance.

Full Maternity Allowance payment – £151.20 per week (tax free) or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less). You will receive these payments for a maximum of 39 weeks.

Reduced rate Maternity Allowance payment – If you haven’t paid enough Class 2 National Insurance contributions you may still be eligible for the reduced rate of £27 per week (tax free) for a maximum of 39 weeks.

Your Maternity Allowance Period will begin on the Sunday of the 11th week before your due date – so that is when your maternity payments will start. You can specify a different start date if you would like to continue working a little longer into your pregnancy.

In terms of how you receive maternity payments, you can choose to be paid either fortnightly or every four weeks – whichever suits you.

Some quick pointers you need to be aware of:

  • You can work for a maximum of 10 days during your Maternity Allowance Period
  • If you do any work you need to inform Jobcentre Plus
  • If you work for more than 10 days or decide to go back to full-time work then don’t forget to cancel your Maternity Allowance

Can self-employed dads get paternity pay?

Unfortunately, self-employed dads are not able to apply for any paternity benefits such as paid paternity leave. To be eligible for any governmental benefits related to paternity, fathers must have an employment contract.

Does shared parental leave apply to self-employed parents?

Shared parental leave allows couples to share up to 52 weeks of their leave, with 37 of the weeks paid, following the birth of their child. This gives couples greater freedom and flexibility during their baby’s first year. Unfortunately, this flexibility is not available to self-employed parents.

There have been some policy proposals recently regarding the issue of sharing maternity leave between self-employed parents, so watch this space!

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