I Don’t Have a Job or I’m Self Employed – Can I Still Get Maternity Pay ?

If you don’t have a job or are currently self-employed, you won’t be eligible for Maternity Pay, but there are other forms of payment that are available.


I’m self-employed; what am I entitled to?

Statutory Maternity Pay is only available for employed women. If you’re self-employed but still work for an employer, you might well be able to receive SMP from them.

However if you are totally self-employed and have no other income, it’s highly unlikely that you can claim SMP, or be eligible for Statutory Maternity Leave.

Instead, you’re likely to qualify for Maternity Allowance (MA).

Don’t forget, if you receive Statutory Maternity Pay, you won’t be able to claim Maternity Allowance, even if you are self-employed at the same time, or voluntarily helping a self-employed spouse or partner.


What is Maternity Allowance?

Maternity Allowance (MA) is a government benefit specifically for expectant mothers who aren’t eligible for Statutory Maternity Pay.

You can claim Maternity Allowance at the start of your 26th week of pregnancy. The earliest payments can start is 11 weeks before your baby is due, and the day after your baby’s birth at the latest.

Do I qualify for Maternity Allowance?

This depends on the duration of your employment in the 66 weeks (15 months) before your baby is due to be born. To be able to get MA, you must have been employed and/or self-employed for at least 26 of those 66 weeks. Any paid work you do during a week counts as one full week, even if you’ve only worked for a couple of days in that week. Also, remember that these weeks don’t have to be consecutive.

So you could have worked a Wednesday and Thursday of one week, and then a Friday two weeks later, and this would count as two weeks.


How much Maternity Allowance will I get?

The amount of MA you receive is related to your Class 2 National Insurance (NI) contributions. Depending on what you’ve earned, these are taken into account automatically when you submit your Self-Assessment (SA) tax return.

If you pay Class 2 NI contributions through your Self-Assessment tax return (and you’ve done so for at least 13 weeks of the 66 week period), you will usually be able to receive £151.20 per week for up to 39 weeks.

However, if you earnt less than £151.20 a week on average during the 66 weeks, you’ll get 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) instead. To work out an average, your total pre-tax earnings for the 13 eligible weeks of the 66 will be added up and divided by 13.

If not enough Class 2 NI contributions have been paid in order to receive the full amount, you may be able to get a reduced amount of £27 a week for up to 39 weeks, as long as all the other criteria are met. You might still be able to receive the full rate by paying NI contributions early. If you believe this applies to you, HMRC can help you do it.

If your spouse or civil partner is self-employed and you help them out by doing unpaid work for them, you may be able to get Maternity Allowance for 14 weeks. You need to have been carrying out the work for a minimum of 26 weeks during the 66 weeks for this to apply, and your partner must be making Class 2 NI contributions.

No tax is payable on Maternity Allowance.

How do I apply for Maternity Allowance?

To apply for Maternity Allowance, you need to fill out and send back the Maternity Allowance claim form which you can find on the Gov.uk website.

If you are unable to download and print the form for any reason, you can ask JobCentre Plus to post one out to you instead.


I’m unemployed; what am I entitled to?

If you are currently unemployed but have worked recently and made the relevant National Insurance contributions, you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance as described above. Maternity Allowance is available to women who don’t qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay – you can read more about MA in our Maternity Allowance article we wrote recently to help.

If you are unemployed and have been for some time, there are other benefits you may be entitled to:

Other Benefits 

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

What is it? A benefit paid if you are unable to work because of sickness or disability.

Who gets it? If you can’t work because of an illness related to pregnancy and you aren’t eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. Find out more on the ESA page on Gov.uk 

Income Support 

What is it?

If you don’t qualify for Maternity Allowance or Statutory Maternity Pay and are not working, or are only on a low income, you might be able to claim Income Support while you’re pregnant.

Who gets it?

You can get Income Support while you’re pregnant and unable to work from 11 weeks before the baby is due, to 15 weeks after birth.

Find out more on the Income Support page on Gov.uk 

Sure Start Maternity Grant 

What is the Sure Start Maternity Grant?

A one-off payment of £500 from the Social Fund to help with the cost of your baby.

Who gets it?

You’ll get the grant if your new baby is the only child under 16 in your family and you or your partner receive certain benefits.

You can learn more about the Sure Start grant and how to apply on the Gov.uk website

To qualify for a Sure Start Maternity Grant there must be no other children and you or your partner must get one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support.
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance.
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance.
  • Pension Credit.
  • Child Tax Credit.
  • Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element.
  • Universal Credit.

You might also be able to qualify if you are getting a Support for Mortgage Interest loan.