Maternity maths

Just before we left on our babymoon, I received one of the many “you are x weeks pregnant” newsletters I have signed up for (the NHS one I find most useful, for what it’s worth) including a throwaway comment “don’t forget to tell your employer – you need to have done so by 25 weeks”. Well, I told my line manager months ago and I have been in touch with our office manager about it, but I bet there is a form out there I should have filled in and I can’t investigate that from Guadeloupe, so will have to return 27 weeks pregnant and work out whether I have failed in my administrative duties… as usual, sigh.

So, given this is causing mild stress in a “did I leave the gas on” kind of way, I have decided to try and get myself prepared so that on my return I know what I am doing maternity leave and holiday-wise and can fill in all the forms at once in a flurry of organisation!

And I’m in good company, apparently the Duchess herself plans to go on maternity leave from royal duties in June too. Maybe we can hang out…

So, the basics – Statutory Maternity Leave, Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave – what are they all about?

MEP Licia Ronzulli votes in favour of extending full pay maternity leave to 20 weeks

“Statutory Maternity Leave

Eligible employees can take up to 52 weeks maternity leave. The first 26 weeks is known as ‘Ordinary Maternity Leave’, the last 26 weeks as ‘Additional Maternity Leave’.

The earliest leave can be taken is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth. Employees must take at least 2 weeks after the birth (or 4 weeks if they’re a factory worker).

Statutory Maternity Pay

Statutory Maternity Pay for eligible employees can be paid for up to 39 weeks, usually as follows:

  • the first 6 weeks – 90% of their average weekly earnings (AWE) before tax
  • the remaining 33 weeks – £136.78 or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower)
  • Tax and National Insurance need to be deducted.”
  • So I can take 52 weeks and the state pay Statutory Maternity Pay for 39 of those weeks and for all 52 weeks I get occupational maternity pay from my company, allowing me to pay the mortgage!

    So where’s the maths?

    The brainteaser in all this is caused by three factors, holiday, babies being unreliable and you having no idea how you’ll feel when 8-9 months pregnant. And I’ll add in the vagaries of British weather to top it off. This all makes planning when you’ll want to take maternity leave rather tricky three months in advance.

    The three holiday periods you need to contend with:

  • Accrued holiday to your maternity leave date
  • OML holiday
  • AML holiday
  • This holiday can be taken before or after your maternity leave (when you have to take it depending on the type of holiday) and you may be able to get it as a payment in lieu (depending on your firm’s policy).

    In summary, it’s all hideously complicated, and I think I have got it all wrong when telling the office manager my plans :-(.

    Accrued holiday

    This is the amount of holiday you have naturally built up till that date minus the amount spent on babymoons and somesuch, remembering (as I didn’t) when exactly your holiday year starts, how much holiday you rolled over, and how much additional you plan to take before the ML shenanigans begin.

    OML Holiday

    So this is for the 26 weeks of OML and it has to be at least 14 days statutorily. The trickiness is around bank holidays where the law on whether they should be included or not seems to be unclear or at least the guidance on the internets is contradictory!

    Looking at this article from workingmums under “customs and practice” and due to the Gomez 2004 case, bank holidays should also count for OML (and AML) depending on the exact wording of your contract and whether payment of bank holidays is a separate benefit.

    AML Holiday

    This gets even more exciting (for those of you who find untangling the law exciting), as it seems there were changes to the maternity legislation in 2007 combined with outcry as to whether UK law was compliant with EU law on maternity matters, so as a result some internets pages are out of date and my job of working out what number I should use for holiday becomes trickier! The key question being whether the significant reduction in rights against your contractual terms and conditions during AML (including taking away your rights to gym membership and perhaps more relevant to this contractual holiday) still applies?

    From what I can see, the UK has capitulated and fallen in line with EU law meaning my contractual rights remain in place for the full 52 weeks. So another 14 days statutory, and then maybe bank holidays.

    So when to take it?

    Maternity Leave can start at the earliest from the 11th week before the baby is due and at the latest the day following the birth (I like the idea that the day you give birth can be a working day!). It will start automatically if you are off sick due to a pregnancy-related issue within 4 weeks of your due date (further scope for all my lovely calculations being messed up!).

    When you can take OML holiday is complicated because the law is unclear on it – it expects the 14 days of statutory leave to be taken in the right leave year but if part of the contract then contractual leave can be carried over. As far as I can work out, my work is less fussed about this and says it can be taken before or after maternity leave.

    The key for me is wanting to still be off for the alien’s first birthday, but the trouble is babies have their own schedule! According to this research “about 2/3 of babies are born within ten days of their due dates, with approximately 80% of babies born sometime between week 38 and 42”. Induction is offered once you are over 42 weeks, suggesting I can assume 43 weeks as the latest arrival date, so 9th August. Meaning my ideal “start back at work” day would be 11th August 2014, so I guess I need to base my calculations (see the workings below) on that.

    The question is whether to work for longer assuming the worst case scenario, or for less so you have a bit of downtime while at the beached whale stage of pregnancy but risk missing the birthday (I could take a random day off I guess, but would look a bit weird having just got back to work).



    The key to all the above is to have something called the MATB1 form which allows you to “claim Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) from her employer or Maternity Allowance (MA) from Jobcentre Plus. The certificate verifies the fact of pregnancy and confirms the date of the expected week of confinement (EWC).” You can’t get it until you are 20 weeks pregnant, but I would recommend getting hold of it at whatever your next midwife / consultants / doctors appointment is after that as its relied on by your employer for working out most of the maternity leave stuff.

    Maternity Allowance

    The Maternity Allowance was something I had never heard of until the NHS newsletter informed me of its existence (see, useful newsletter!). Apparently “MA is a benefit paid by Jobcentre Plus to pregnant women who cannot get SMP, the self-employed and recently employed. To qualify, a woman must have been employed and/or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the test period – (this is the 66 week period ending with the week before the EWC). The 26 weeks do not have to be in a row and part weeks count towards the 26 weeks. In addition, a woman must have average weekly earnings of at least £30 a week in any 13 weeks in the test period.”

    This is not to be sniffed at, as “You could get either £136.78 a week or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). It’s paid for up to 39 weeks. You can claim Maternity Allowance as soon as you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks. Payments can start 11 weeks before your baby is due.”

    All at sea

    Of course this all sucks if you are a mariner working off the continental shelf, who don’t get SMP at all. Sorry mariners…

    My workings (for the maths geeks)

    I am lucky, in that my firm has a good maternity benefits package – paying a good percentage of salary for the 20 weeks of OML (after the statutory 6 weeks at 90%) and continuing at a reduced but still reasonable rate for the 26 weeks of AML (as long as I go back to work for at least 6 months after that – otherwise I have to pay them back). Which makes it possible for me to take the full 52 weeks maternity leave without worrying that I can’t pay the mortgage (or buy cute baby clothes). And if I decide that the absence of work is driving me nuts, then I can always give them 8 weeks notice and tell them I’ve decided to come back early. Fabulous!

    The fact that you can have your holiday paid in lieu instead of taking it seems a step too far for my modelling skills so I’m just going to assume I take it all and if I don’t want to in the end (e.g. if the alien rocks up on time) then I will sort it out some time before my return.

    Accrued Holiday

    I think that up till a maternity leave date of 13th July this is 7 days, but need to check. I had thought I would go on ML earlier but have realised that I might be better off making it later as then more holiday accrues for when I need it i.e. around maternity leave and more of the holiday is taken in the right holiday year.

    This is further complicated by holiday I have rolled over from last year, so I think the 5 days of babymoon in this holiday year are offset by 2.5 days of rollover, giving me 4.5 days (7-2.5) accrued holiday left. I thought I had taken 6.5 but just realised 4 of those days were in the last holiday year, so came from last year’s allowance not this one. Ho hum.

    OML & AML Holiday

    My normal holiday allowance for half a year would be 13 days so I was going to just go with the statutory 14 days each for OML and AML holiday, but that ignores the 4 bank holidays during OML and another 4 during AML. The situation with bank holidays seems to be extremely unclear, and I’m going to have to dig out my contract and see how that’s worded before going into battle on this one.

    So what’s the plan?

    So if my ideal “start back at work” day would be 11th August 2014 and we take 13th July as my maternity start date. To reach 11th August 2014, I would need 20 days holiday from OML and AML from the end of maternity leave on 12th July 2014. Which means all my AML holiday plus 3/6 days of OML (depending on the bank holidays).

    That leaves 11/14 days OML holiday and 4.5 days accrued holiday to take before maternity leave starts.

    So depending on the bank holiday situation, I think I have two option:

    1. Finish on my project 14th June, bit of admin tidy-up on 17th & 18th, and start holiday on 19th giving me 3.5 weeks before the due date to waddle around trying to do all the things we have failed to up till that point!

    2. Finish on the project on 19th, admin tidy-up on 20th. Giving me 3 weeks before the due date.

    In both cases, use up the extra half day sometime between then and now, take a Friday afternoon or Monday morning off perhaps…

    I prefer option 1, but what if the baby is really late? I don’t want to miss its first birthday. Equally the idea of commuting on the tube while 8.5 months pregnant in June (which could be hot, you never know) fills me with dread.

    What to do?!

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