What happens to my Statutory Maternity Pay if my job ends?

As long as you meet all of the conditions for Statutory Maternity Pay, you are still entitled to receive it even if your job has ended.

Once you have qualified for SMP you are entitled to receive it for the full 39 weeks. This is the case even if you are made redundant, leave your job, are dismissed for gross misconduct or a fixed-term contract comes to an end at any time after the 15th week before your baby is due or during your maternity leave.

If your employer dismisses you before you reach 26 weeks’ service or before the 15th week before the due date and you can demonstrate that you were dismissed in order to avoid liability for SMP, you can still claim, as long as you were employed for at least eight weeks by the dismissal date.

It makes no difference to your entitlement to SMP that you don’t intend to return to work at the end of your maternity leave. You do not have to pay back your SMP if you don’t go back to work.

Your employer claims back all or most of your SMP from HM Revenue and Customs. The position is more complicated if your employer offers maternity pay at a level that is better than SMP. It is not uncommon for employers to require that some of your contractual (but not statutory) maternity pay must be repaid if you do not return to work after your maternity leave and then stay in work for a specified period. The rules must be clearly set out, for example in your staff handbook.

While this is perfectly legal, it is not an ideal situation for many mothers. An alternative would be for contractual maternity pay to be non-refundable, but with a return-to-work bonus instead.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.