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Your rights: Entitlements before your baby is born

Fantastic news — you’ve just found out you’re expecting a baby! You’re probably feeling very excited about the prospect of your new arrival, but at the same time concerned about the likely drop in your family income.

Whether or not you are currently employed, read on for information about what financial benefits you might be entitled to before your baby is born.

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

If you have been working for the same employer for at least 26 weeks up to and into the 15th week before the week the baby is due, and you earn on average at least £107 per week (for 2012-13), you may qualify for SMP.

If you wish to claim SMP you must give your employer 28 days’ notice that you want to stop working to have a baby, and the day you wish your SMP to start. If you later change your mind about the start date, you must give your employer 28 days’ notice of the new date otherwise they can refuse to pay you.

Statutory Maternity Pay can be paid for up to 39 weeks. For the first 6 weeks your employer must pay you SMP at the rate of 90% of your average weekly earnings. For the next 33 weeks, your employer must pay you 90% of your average weekly earnings or £135.45 (from 1 April 2012) whichever is the lower.

You will need to prove to your employer that you are expecting a baby, by providing evidence such as a letter from your GP or your MAT B1 maternity certificate, which your own doctor or midwife will give to you after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Maternity Allowance (MA)

If you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, you may be eligible for Maternity Allowance if the following apply to you:

You can claim Maternity Allowance when you reach the 27th week of pregnancy by completing an MA1 claim form. You can obtain a claim form from the Jobcentre Plus or by downloading an MA claim pack.

Other options
If you are not entitled to either of the above, you may be able to claim Income Support once you are 29 weeks pregnant and for up to 15 weeks after your expected date. If you are capable of work, you could claim Job Seekers’ Allowance. The rules of entitlement are complicated, so you may wish to seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Healthy Start

If you are 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4, and you or your family get a means-tested benefit such as Income Support, Income-based Job Seeker’s Allowance, Income-related Employment & Support Allowance or Child Tax Credit, you will qualify for Healthy Start vouchers to help you to buy foods such as milk, fruit and vegetables. You will also get vitamin coupons to swap for free Healthy Start vitamins. If you are under 18 and pregnant you also qualify, even if you don’t get any of the above benefits.