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  1. ITV Report

Maternity and paternity pay and leave: What are your rights?

Credit: PA

A mother's petition to extend maternity leave for the parents of premature babies has secured more than 100,000 signatures and has been read in Parliament.

Catriona Ogilvy began her campaign after both of her sons, five-year-old Samuel, and Jack, three, were born prematurely and spent time in hospital following their births.

The 35-year-old was shocked to find that her maternity leave began as soon as the babies were born, months before she would get to take them home.

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But what are new parents currently entitled to?

New mothers and fathers are entitled to Statutory Maternity or Paternity Pay (SMP/SPP) and Statutory Maternity or Paternity Leave (SML/SPL).

If you are self-employed, or you do not meet the requirements you may qualify

You can calculate what you are entitled to here.

However, some companies have their own policies and may offer employees more.

Provided you meet the requirements explained below you cannot be offered less than what the Government has set out.

A baby playing. Credit: PA
  • How much time off can new mothers take?

Mothers can take up to 52 weeks' maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as "ordinary maternity leave", while the last 26 weeks is known as "additional maternity leave".

You can take as much of this time off as you want, but you must take two weeks' leave after the baby is born, or four weeks if you work in a factory.

For the first six weeks of maternity leave you will be paid 90% of your average weekly earnings.

For 33 weeks after this you will either be paid either £139.58 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

After this you will not be paid.

You can begin your maternity leave 11 weeks before the due date, or if the baby is born before this then it begins from the day of the birth.

  • Do all new mothers qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave?

To qualify for Statutory Maternity Leave you must have an employment contract and give at least 15 weeks notice before the due date.

The mother must also earn at least £112 a week and have worked continuously for the company for 26 weeks prior to the due date.

Proof of pregnancy must also be proved with a doctor's letter or a maternity certificate.

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  • How much time off can new fathers take?

New fathers can take either one or two weeks off.

Leave cannot start before the baby is born and must be taken within 56 days of the birth.

Statutory Paternity Pay is £139.58 per week or 90% of a father's average weekly earnings, you will be paid whichever amount is lower.

Fathers can take unpaid time off work to accompany the mother, or their partner, to two antenatal appointments.

  • Do all new fathers qualify for Statutory Paternity Leave?

To qualify for Statutory Paternity Leave you must have an employment contract and give at least 15 weeks notice before the due date.

The father must also earn at least £112 a week and have worked continuously for the company for 26 weeks prior to the due date.

Proof of pregnancy must also be proved with a doctor's letter or a maternity certificate.

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  • What about Shared Parental Leave and Pay?

To start Shared Parental Leave (SPL) or Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) the mother must end her maternity pay and leave, and then the father or her partner can take the rest of it.

Parents can share SPL and Shpp between them so long as they are both eligible.

SPL can be taken all at once or in blocks, but must be taken between the baby's birth and its first birthday.

  • Do all new parents qualify for SPL and ShPP?

Each parent qualifies separately and must qualify (under the requirements set out above) for either maternity or paternity pay and leave.

Both parents must also have been employed continuously by the same employer for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the due date.

During the 66 weeks before the baby is due you must both have earned at least £390 in total in 13 of the 66 weeks.

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  • What if I'm self-employed or I don't qualify for any of the above?

If you are self-employed and pay Class 2 National Insurance for at least 13 of the 66 weeks before your due date, or you don't meet the requirements listed above you may qualify for Maternity Allowance.

To be eligible for Maternity Allowance you must have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks, and earning at least £30 a week in the last 13 weeks.

Maternity Allowance payments can start 11 weeks before your baby is due.

It is paid every two or four weeks.

  • What am I entitled to under Maternity Allowance?

You can either get £139.58 per week or 90% of your average weekly earnings, whichever is less, for 39 weeks.

  • What if I am unemployed

Maternity Allowance also pays £27 a week for up to 14 weeks for those who are unemployed.

  • What if I am a self-employed father?

Self-employed fathers cannot claim Statutory Paternity Pay or Leave.