I'm an agency worker. Do I get Statutory Maternity Pay?

Yes, but only if you qualify. As an agency worker, to qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) you must: 

  • still be pregnant in the 11th week before the week your baby is due; 

  • have been engaged by the same agency for 26 continuous weeks by the start of the 14th week before the week in which your baby is due ('the qualifying week') and still be engaged by the agency in the qualifying week. (Even if you haven't worked for the agency in each of the 26 weeks ending with the qualifying week, you can still get SMP if the reason that you didn't work is that the agency didn't have any work to offer you, or because you were ill, or on paid annual leave.); 

  • have earned at least, or above, the level of the Lower Earnings Limit, currently £120 per week (2020) in the eight weeks (if paid weekly) or two months (if paid monthly) before the end of the qualifying week; and 

  • have notified the agency of your pregnancy and the date on which you expect SMP to start. 

SMP is paid for 39 weeks. For the first six weeks, it is paid at 90% of your average gross weekly earnings; for the remaining time, it is paid at the lower of either a standard rate (£151,20 per week from April 2020) or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings. 

If you do not qualify for SMP, you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance (MA). Details of how to claim Maternity Allowance can be found on the GOV.UK website. 

To qualify for MA, you must have worked for 26 weeks during the 66 weeks before the week in which your baby is due. You must have earned at least £30 per week on average during this time, over any 13-week period. Payment of MA is not dependent on National Insurance (NI) contributions. 

Temporary agency workers who are pregnant women or new mothers, and who have worked for the same hirer in the same role for a 12-week qualifying period, are also entitled to: 

  • reasonable paid time off to attend antenatal appointments when on assignments; and 

  • to be offered an alternative assignment if your assignment is unsuitable for pregnancy-related reasons or to be suspended on full pay if a suitable alternative assignment is not available. 

You are also entitled to unpaid time off to accompany your pregnant partner to up to two antenatal appointments and to time off for adoption appointments, again after the 12-week qualifying period. For more information, see our section on Family-friendly Work

If you are an employee of the agency (as opposed to a 'temporary agency worker'), you will be entitled to these rights from day one of any assignment. 

Although qualifying temporary agency workers can be paid SMP or Maternity Allowance, they cannot take maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave. Only employees (including direct employees of the agency) can take leave. 

Although you cannot take shared parental leave as an agency worker, if your partner is directly employed he or she may be able to take shared parental leave. For more information, see SPLASH, a web portal designed by charities and specialist legal advisers to help workers navigate the shared parental leave regime. 

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.

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