You’re self-employed and planning on having a child soon or you or your significant other is already pregnant. The panic has subsided and planning can begin. What are your options?

Having children can place strain over anyone’s career, but when you are a freelancer it can feel even harder to figure out what maternity leave and benefits you are entitled to and when to go back to work if at all. You may be surprised to read, if you are working for yourself and become pregnant, there is support that you can claim.

self-employed woman

When you fall pregnant (congrats by the way), it’s time to start preparing for your working life after your child is born. Being self-employed, you won’t be able to receive statutory maternity pay, but, don’t worry, you will be able to apply for something else, maternity allowance. The full maintenance allowance available for 2018/2019 is £145.18 per week or 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings - whichever is lower (sad face emoji). We know it’s pretty measly but it’ll pay for the nappies and a bit of baby food whilst you adjust.

So, now you know how much you are potentially entitled to, here’s how you can get your hands on it, but bear with us as it’s a little confusing.

You must be working for at least 26 of the 66 weeks leading up to your due date, earning on average at least £30 per week. This is known as the ‘test period.’ During this period, you must have paid class two national insurance contributions for at least 13 weeks of the test period, and be registered as self-employed with HMRC. Essentially, if you’ve been a freelancer for a while and paid tax, you’re entitled. If you’ve just started freelancing and become pregnant, you may want to take out the calculator to see if you’re able to claim.

Once you’ve wrapped your head around that and are 26 weeks pregnant, you can fill in an MA1 claim form here. There is an interactive version here. The form isn’t too complicated. You’ll need your National Insurance number and a few details about your business status (self-employed, employed etc…) but nothing too taxing.

mother and baby

When sending the completed form, you will also need to provide a maternity certificate, proof of your income, such as payslips and proof of the baby’s due date such as a letter from the doctor or midwife. If one of the businesses that you work for provides statutory maternity pay, you will need to provide your SMP1 form, though this may affect how much you are able to claim, if anything at all.

Now to the best part, when you receive your maternity allowance. Payments will start on the Sunday 11 weeks before your baby is due if you have already stopped working. For those still working, it’s up to you when you want your maternity allowance to begin as long as it is no later than the day after you give birth. Also, during your maternity leave, you will have the option of working up to 10 days. These days are referred to as 'keeping in touch days'. You don’t have to provide any proof of your earnings during this period, but if you work over 10 days you must cancel your maternity allowance.

Things to Know

  • Maternity allowance is tax-free.

  • Only one partner can receive maternity allowance or parental pay (for an employed father) at one time.

  • If you are self-employed with a limited company you may be entitled to statutory maternity pay instead. Find out what you’re entitled to here.

  • Make sure you keep track of your working hours during maternity leave.

  • Keeping in touch days counts as any amount of work completed in a day as a day’s work.

  • You’ll have the opportunity to get up-to-date with your national insurance contributions during your application if you hadn’t been able to do so before applying.