Why is this important?
This information applies to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
If you have recently stopped work to have a child, and you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay from your employer, you may be entitled to Maternity Allowance. You can make a claim for Maternity Allowance after you have been pregnant for 26 weeks. You will need to provide a maternity certificate called a MAT B1. Your midwife or doctor can give you this certificate. Maternity Allowance is paid for 39 weeks. The earliest it can start is 11 weeks before your baby is born.
If you do not qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, and you have paid national insurance contributions, you may be entitled to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for six weeks before the expected week of childbirth and up to 14 days after the birth.
If you qualify for Maternity Allowance, you may also be entitled to ESA from 11 weeks before the baby is born and up to 15 weeks afterwards. You can also get ESA if you are pregnant and there is a serious risk to your health or that of your child if you continue to work.
If you have no other children under 16 and you or your partner are receiving Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related ESA, Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, you may qualify for a maternity grant from the Social Fund. You can make a claim from the eleventh week before your baby is due and up to three months after the baby is born. The grant is £500 and you can spend it how you wish. It does not have to be repaid. You will need a healthcare professional to sign the form confirming that you have received health and welfare advice.
You will also be entitled to Child Benefit once your child is born. This is not means tested and is paid in addition to any benefits you are receiving. However, if you are getting Child Benefit and you or your partner have a high income, you may have to pay extra tax because you are getting Child Benefit. For more information, see Child Benefit and tax if you have a high income.
You may also be able to get Child Tax Credit (or more Child Tax Credit if you already get it) for your baby. If you work at least 16 hours a week, or 24 hours between you and your partner if you're in a couple (with one of you working at least 16 hours a week), you may be entitled to Working Tax Credit. You will be treated as working during the first 26 weeks of maternity leave if you worked at least 16 hours a week beforehand. Working Tax Credit can include help with childcare costs if you qualify. If your child is disabled, you may also be able to claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for them. If you are disabled, you may be entitled to Personal Independence Payment.
If you or your partner are receiving Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related ESA or Child Tax Credit you may be entitled to free vitamins and vouchers to help with the cost of milk, fruit or vegetables. You can also get free prescriptions and other health-care costs while you are pregnant and for the first year after you have given birth.
For more information about statutory maternity pay, see Parental rights at work.
For more information about benefits and tax credits for maternity and for children, see Benefits for families and children.
For more information about maternity grants, see Help for people on a low income - the Social Fund.
For more information about Incapacity Benefit, ESA and DLA, see Benefits for people who are sick or disabled.