Your Rights on Maternity Leave
Many mums make the decision to work from home after the birth of their child while they are still on maternity leave. Whether you can’t afford childcare, don’t want to leave the child with someone else, have inflexible or unfriendly working conditions or just fancy a change, it’s important that you know your rights on maternity leave so that your personal journey to becoming a work at home mum is as smooth as possible.
Note: Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance are different things. If you’re currently earning Maternity Allowance this article does not apply.
You can earn as self-employed whilst receiving SMP
Unlike starting work for a new employer whilst on Statutory Maternity Pay, which causes your SMP to be stopped, you can earn in a self-employed capacity whilst on SMP without your maternity pay being jeopardised:
If you do any work in a self-employed capacity during your MPP, then such work will not affect your SMP.
— Department for Work and Pensions
This is a great way to test the waters with your WAHM ideas/product without the risk of months of zero income.
(It’s important your employment contract does not forbid working for yourself as you’re still classed as employed whilst on maternity leave.)
SMP is yours regardless of your intention
If you’ve earned the right to SMP by working for your employer for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks into the qualifying week (which is the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due), you can keep your SMP even if you have no intention of returning.
In other words, if you’re currently in receipt of SMP but tell your employer you are not returning, they cannot stop your payments or ask that you pay back your SMP. However…
You may have to pay back additional / occupational maternity pay
If you are paid additional or occupational maternity pay above and beyond the statutory rate set by the government, you may be required to pay back the difference if you decide not to return to work. It should detail in your maternity leave paperwork or contract your obligations with regards to this additional pay, but if in doubt ask your employer.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that you have your entire maternity leave to decide if you want to become a work at home mum; test your product or idea, save as much as you can and then decide if you want to take the leap…