Martin Lewis offers advice on maternity leave and furlough

After lockdown measures were implemented in the UK on March 23, all but essential businesses were closed to stop the spread of COVID-19. To support those affected, the government introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which businesses are able to apply to through HMRC. Under the scheme, the government will cover 80 percent of salaries up to £2,500 as employees are otherwise placed on a period of unpaid leave.


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However, pregnant women who have been furloughed have asked the financial expert whether their maternity pay could be affected.

When taking time off work to have a baby, the government states women may be entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave, Statutory Maternity Pay, and paid time off for antenatal care.

But for expectant and new mothers who have been furloughed there is good news, with Martin informing this group their maternity pay is unlikely to be affected.

On his website,, Martin wrote: “New rules which kicked on 25 April mean that if you’re due to go on maternity leave, your rights to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) or Maternity Allowance (MA) shouldn’t be affected if your company is furloughing staff.

“Eligibility for SMP or MA and the amount you receive is normally dependent on your average earnings, meaning employees furloughed at only 80 percent of their wage were initially at risk of being adversely affected.

“However, new rules have been introduced, meaning that any qualifying employee going on maternity leave on or after 25 April (including if you’re still working but have applied for maternity leave) will get their SMP or MA based on 100% of their salary rather than 80% which would have been their furlough pay.”

Those who are on Statutory Maternity Pay are therefore entitled to 90 percent of their full pay for the first six weeks, rather than the same percentage of furloughed pay.

Under government rules, employment rights while on Statutory Maternity Leave are also protected.

These include rights to pay rises, building up holiday, and returning to work. 

However, for those who left their company for maternity leave before April 25, there are issues to keep in mind.

Furlough can legally impact pay as the government issues this on an assessment of the income of an individual over the past 26 weeks.

However, Martin states this is unlikely to have a large impact on mothers currently on leave.

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It is important, however, to analyse personal finances to keep track of entitlements.

However, many people are also entitled to additional benefits which derive from their employer, so claiming these can also help fill any monetary gaps.

Statutory Maternity Leave is comprised of 52 weeks, made up of Ordinary Maternity Leave for 26 weeks, and an additional 26 weeks for Additional Maternity Leave.

Women are not required to take the entire 52 week leave period, but must take two weeks leave after their child is born. 

Statutory Maternity Pay provides women with 90 percent of their average weekly earnings before tax for the first six weeks.

It then pays out 90 percent of average earnings, or £151.20 – whichever is lower – for a subsequent 33 weeks. 

At the start of April, one of the UK’s leading charities, Maternity Action, wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to ask him and the Treasury to urgently address support for pregnant women and new parents.

In the letter, the charity highlighted pregnant women are under “extraordinary financial and other pressures as a result of COVID-19”.

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