Maternity and paternity benefits and leave

Find out about benefits you're entitled to when you have a baby, including maternity and paternity leave and pay.

This page lists the benefits you're entitled to when you're pregnant, and has information on maternity, paternity and shared parental leave.

It also lists other benefits you might be able to receive, depending on your circumstances.

Leave and time off

When you're pregnant, you're entitled to up to a year of maternity leave.  

Statutory Maternity Leave

If you are employed and pregnant, you are entitled to 52 weeks (1 year) of maternity leave, no matter how long you've worked for your employer.

This is made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave.

You have a range of rights during this period and can also request that your employer provides flexible working arrangements if you decide to return to work at the end of your leave.

Your employment terms (for example, your pension contributions) are protected while you're on Statutory Maternity Leave.

If you're made redundant while on Statutory Maternity Leave, you also have extra rights.

Further information

Working when pregnant

If you're pregnant, your employer must protect your health and safety, and you may have the right to paid time off for antenatal care. You're also protected against unfair treatment.  

If you enjoy your work and like the people you work with, you may have mixed feelings when you go on maternity leave.

Try to make the most of these few weeks before your baby is born. It's also a good opportunity to make some new friends.

You may make new pregnant friends you want to keep in touch with at antenatal classes, or you may get to know more people living close by.

Further information

Planning childcare

You may have decided that you're going to spend some time at home with your baby, or you may be planning to return to work, either full time or part time, fairly soon after the birth.

If you plan to go back to work, start thinking in advance about who will look after your baby.

It's not always easy to make childcare arrangements, and it may take you some time.

You may have a relative who's willing to look after your child. If not, contact the Family Information Service at your local authority for a list of registered childminders and nurseries in your area.

You may also want to think about organising care in your own home, either on your own or sharing with other parents.

Care in your own home does not need to be registered, but make sure your carer is experienced and trained to care for babies.

Further information

Returning to work after Statutory Maternity Leave

You have employment rights and responsibilities when you go back to work. 

Make sure you know what these are and what to do if you have any problems or you're denied your rights.

Requesting flexible working

Parents of children aged 16 and under, or of disabled children aged 18 and under, are entitled to request a flexible working pattern.

You need to follow a specific procedure when making your request.

Further information

Paternity Leave

If you're a father-to-be or the partner of someone who is pregnant – including same-sex partner – you could have the right to paternity leave.

You may be eligible for:

  • 1 or 2 weeks’ paid Paternity Leave
  • Paternity Pay
  • Shared Parental Leave and Pay

Further information

Shared Parental Leave

You may be eligible to share parental leave and pay with your partner.

Shared Parental Leave is designed to give parents the flexibility to decide when to return to work and allow families to spend time together in the early stages of a child's life.

  • Leave and pay can be shared following the first 2 weeks after your baby's birth. This means up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared.
  • You can take all of your Shared Parental Leave in one go, or you can take it in blocks separated by periods of work in between.
  • Shared Parental Leave can be taken by both parents at the same time so you and your partner can spend time at home together with your baby.

Further information

Benefits if you're pregnant

There are benefits and financial help if you're pregnant, whether you're employed or not.

Free NHS prescriptions and dental care

If you're pregnant or you've had a baby in the past 12 months, you're entitled to:

  • free NHS prescriptions, if you have a valid maternity exemption (MATEX) certificate
  • free NHS dental treatment, if you have a valid MATEX certificate, MatB1 certificate, notification of birth form or birth certificate – the treatments needs to have started while you were pregnant or within 12 months of your baby's birth

If you have a miscarriage or stillbirth you can continue to use your MATEX for free NHS prescriptions and free NHS dental treatment until it expires. You can also use a stillbirth certificate to get free NHS dental treatment for 12 months after your due date.

To claim free NHS prescriptions, ask a healthcare professional, for example, a doctor, nurse, midwife or health visitor. They will help you make a paper or digital application.

With a digital application, you'll get your certificate by email straight away. Otherwise, you'll get a paper MATEX certificate in the post.

The MATEX certificate lasts for 12 months after your due date. If your baby is born early, you can continue to use the certificate until it expires. If your baby is born late, you can apply for an extension.

If you apply after your baby is born, your exemption certificate will last for 12 months after the date of your baby's birth.

Further information

Healthy Start

You can get free milk, infant formula, vitamins, fruit and vegetables if you're receiving certain benefits or if you're under 18.

Further information

Healthy Start: help buying food and milk

Tax credits 

Child Tax Credit gives financial support for children, and Working Tax Credit helps people in lower-paid jobs by topping up their wages.

Further information

Statutory Maternity Pay

A weekly payment from your employer to help you take time off before and after your baby is born.

Further information

GOV.UK: Statutory Maternity Pay

Maternity Allowance

If you're pregnant or have a new baby but do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, you might be able to claim Maternity Allowance through Jobcentre Plus.

Further information

Statutory Paternity Pay

If your wife, partner (including same-sex partner) or civil partner gives birth or adopts a child, you may be able to claim Statutory Paternity Pay to help you take time off work to support them.

Find out more about paternity pay and leave on GOV.UK, including when you need to let your employer know that you're expecting.

Statutory Adoption Pay

A weekly payment from your employer to help you take time off if you adopt a child.

Find out more about adoption pay and leave on GOV.UK, including how and when to let your employer know.

Other financial help

Sure Start Maternity Grant

If you're on a low income and get certain benefits or tax credits, and there are no other children under 16 in your family, you could get this one-off payment.

Further information

Jobseeker's Allowance

The main benefit for people of working age who are out of work.

Further information

Income Support

If you cannot be available for full-time work and have not got enough money to live on, you might qualify for Income Support, depending on your circumstances.

Find out more about Income Support on GOV.UK, including how and where to claim.

Employment and Support Allowance

This has replaced Income Support for people who cannot work because of illness or disability.

Further information

Housing Benefit

You might be eligible for help with all or part of your rent if you're on a low income.

Further information

Support for Mortgage Interest

Help with mortgage interest repayments if you receive certain benefits.

Further information

Council Tax Reduction

You might be eligible for help with paying your council tax if your income is low.

Further information

Help with transport costs to hospital

You might be able to get help from the Healthcare Travel Costs Scheme, depending on your circumstances.

Further information

Where to get help and support

You should get advice on benefits as soon as you find out you're pregnant. Benefits have to be claimed on different forms, from different offices, depending on what you're claiming. 

There are lots of voluntary organisations that are happy to help. Ask them for advice or get an opinion.

  • Some local authorities have welfare rights officers – phone your social services department and ask.
  • Some voluntary organisations give information and advice on benefits and rights at work – try Gingerbread and Working Families.
  • For advice on your rights at work, call ACAS on 0300 123 1100.
  • If you're 19 or under, you can get advice on work from the National Careers Service on 0800 100 900.

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