Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid at 90% of your earnings for the first six weeks. For the remainder, you are paid either a flat rate of £145.18 a week (from 5 April 2018) or 90% of your weekly earnings, whichever is less.
SMP is paid for the first 39 weeks of maternity leave, so the flat rate mentioned above will be payable for 33 weeks unless your employer offers something better than this.
There is now the option, for those who qualify, of ending your maternity leave early, and opting into the new Shared Parental Leave system.
Statutory Shared Parental Pay (SSPP) is paid during Shared Parental Leave at £145.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).
Unlike SMP and (since 5 April 2015) Statutory Adoption Pay, where the first six weeks are paid at 90% of actual wages, SSPP, is paid at the lower weekly rate for the whole period. This means that most employees whose wages exceed £145.18 a week will be better off financially if they take maternity leave for the first six weeks.
Some women have a contractual right to maternity pay that is higher than statutory maternity pay. You cannot get both, but you have the right to opt for whichever is the most generous. When planning whether, and if so when, to opt into Shared Parental Leave, take care not to forfeit any rights you may have to higher-than-statutory maternity pay.