Maternity and paternity rights and benefits

Sure Start Maternity Grant

The Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one-off payment towards the cost of maternity and baby items. You may be entitled to this if you are on a low income or getting certain benefits of tax credits. 

You are entitled to the grant if you or your partner are in receipt of the following on the date that you claim:

  • Income Support
  • Income Based Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Income-related employment and support allowance
  • Child Tax Credit at a rate higher than the family element
  • Working Tax Credit where a disability/sever disability is part of payment

Statutory Maternity Pay

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for a maximum period of 39 weeks. Your employer will usually pay you SMP in the same way and at the same time as your normal wages. Maternity Pay is treated as normal pay, so your employer will also deduct tax and National Insurance as usual.

To claim SMP you must tell your employer at least 28 days before the date you want to start your SMP. Your employer may need you to tell them in writing.

If you can't get SMP (from any of your employers if you have more than one) you may be able to get Maternity Allowance from Jobcentre Plus instead.

To check your maternity rights or those of your employees, visit Gov.UK.

Maternity Allowance

If you're pregnant or have a new baby but don't qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance (MA) through Jobcentre Plus.

MA is paid for a maximum of 39 weeks and can be paid weekly or every four weeks directly into your bank, building society, Post Office or National Savings account that accepts Direct Payment.

The earliest you can get MA is from the 11th week before the week your baby's due. The latest you can get it is from the day following your child's birth.

You can ask your local Jobcentre Plus for a claim form (Form MA1) or download one from GOV.UK.

'Keeping in touch' days

You are entitled to do up to ten days' work during your maternity leave without losing maternity pay or bringing your leave to an end.

These 'keeping in touch days' may only be worked if both you and your employer agree. Although particularly useful for things such as training or team events, they may be used for any form of work and should make it easier to return to work after your leave. You will need to agree with your employer what work is to be done on keeping in touch days and how much pay you will receive.

For further information speak to your employer or visit GOV.UK.

Statutory paternity/adoption pay

You can take Statutory Paternity Leave if you:

  • are an employee, with a contract of employment
  • are the biological father of the child or you are the mother's husband or partner (including same-sex relationships), or you are the child's adopter or the partner of the adopter
  • have been with your employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the start of the week in which you are notified of being matched with your child
  • will be fully involved in the child's upbringing and are taking the time off to support the mother or care for the baby.

You can take either one week or two consecutive weeks' paternity leave and during this time may be entitled to Statutory Paternity Pay.

If you are adopting a child you have the same rights to maternity and paternity entitlements, including the levels of pay and the eligibility criteria. The partner within the couple who is not taking adoption leave is entitled to paid paternity leave.

Visit GOV.UK to check your paternity rights.  

Healthy Start

You may be entitled to free milk, fresh fruit and vegetables and vitamins under the Healthy Start scheme. You will need to complete an application form and get your midwife, health visitor or registered doctor or nurse to sign it.

Health benefits

There are a number of National Health Service (NHS) benefits that parents and carers may claim for their children:

  • women who are pregnant or who have had a baby in the last 12 months will get free prescriptions and free NHS dental treatment with a valid Maternity Exemption Certificate. Ask your doctor, nurse, midwife or health visitor for form FW8 which they will sign for you
  • children under 16 (18 for dental treatment) or under 19 in full-time education and adults who get Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance/Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are entitled to free prescriptions, dental treatment, eyesight tests and vouchers for glasses
  • adults on Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance may also get help with fares to hospitals and payments from the Social Fund. Others on a low income may claim help under the Low Income Scheme, with a form from your dentist, optician or GP surgery.

More information visit the NHS website.

Real nappies

Parents living in the London Borough of Barnet are entitled to a subsidy towards the cost of using real nappies. These can be used for home washing or for a nappy laundering service.

Visit the real nappies page to find out more.

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