Maternity Allowance (MA) is paid to pregnant women who don't qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay.
You may not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay for a number of reasons. For instance: if you are self-employed; have recently become unemployed; or have changed jobs within the 26 weeks leading up to the 15th week before your due date.
I'm self-employed, am I eligible for MA?
Yes, as long as you've been paying Class 2 National Insurance contributions for at least 13 weeks of the 66 weeks leading up to your due date.
I'm not employed nor officially self-employed but my husband runs his own business, which I regularly help out with. Am I eligible for MA?
You may be, if it's your spouse or civil partner's business and as long as you are not a partner or employee in the business.
I've recently become unemployed. Am I eligible for Maternity Allowance?
Possibly. If you were employed or self-employed for at least 26 of the 66 weeks up to and including the week before your baby is due.
You also need to have had average earnings of at least £30 per week over any 13 weeks of that 66 week period, in order to qualify.
If you are unsure whether you are eligible for MA you can use the HMRC maternity entitlement calculator to check.
How much MA will I receive?
The amount you get varies depending on your circumstances.
Most people eligible for MA will get £138.18 a week or 90 per cent of their average earnings (whichever is less) for up to 39 weeks.
However, if you've been working for a self-employed spouse or civil partner, then you will receive a MA of £27 a week for a maximum of 14 weeks.
You can use the HMRC maternity entitlement calculator to check which type of MA you are eligible for.
When should I apply for MA and how do I go about applying?
You can put in a claim for MA any time from your 26th week of pregnancy.
The MA1 application form is available to download from the HMRC website.
Along with the completed form, you will also have to send the HMRC proof of your income (eg. payslips) and proof that you're pregnant - unfortunately a scan photo won't do, you need to include your MATB1 certificate or a letter from your doctor or midwife .
If you are applying for MA because you were refused Statutory Maternity Pay by your employer, then you will also have to send your SMP1 form, which your employer should have given you when rejecting your claim.
Bear in mind that if you claim MA it could affect other benefits you are receiving.
When will I start to receive Maternity Allowance?
The earliest you can start to receive payments is from 11 weeks before your due date. The latest you can ask for your MA payments to start is just after your baby is born.
You will receive your payments directly into your bank account, every two or every four weeks.
Will I have to pay back my MA if I decide not to return to work?
No, if at the end of your maternity leave you decide not to return to work you will not have to repay any of your MA.
If I lose my baby will I still receive my MA payments?
You will still receive MA if your baby is stillborn after the start of your 24th week of pregnancy.
Help! I'm not eligible for SMP or MA – is there any financial support available to me?
You might still be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for people who are unable to work. Whether you're eligible will depend on the stage of your pregnancy and whether there would be a risk to our health or your baby's health if you worked.
More on Parentdish
Maternity leave: your rights explained
Paternity leave: Extended to four weeks on full pay?
15 ways to get the most from your maternity leave