Maternity rights: what family benefits can you get?

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Maternity benefits

If you’re pregnant or have children there are a range of maternity rights and family benefits available – but many of them are NOT paid to you automatically, meaning it’s up to you to claim them.

What’s more, most pregnancy benefits can only be backdated for a few months – so the longer you put off claiming them, the more money you lose.

Many family benefits are NOT paid automatically – it’s up to you to claim them

It can all be very confusing – especially if you’re already dealing with the demands of pregnancy and family life, and have a hundred and one things to take care of already. So we’ve trawled through all the family benefits so you can see at a glance what you’re entitled to.

FAMILY BENEFITS AVAILABLE TO ALL PARENTS


Maternity benefits for all parentsThese family benefits are available to ALL parents, regardless of whether they work or not.

(NB: some of these benefits are dependent on your level of earnings, however).

Child Benefit

What is Child Benefit?

Child Benefit is a tax-free payment that every parent can claim to help pay for the costs of raising their children up to the age of 16. There are separate rates for each child.

Who can get it?

Anyone responsible for a child up to the age of 16 (Child Benefit is only available after the age of 16 if your child is on an ‘approved’ education or training course. Find out what courses are approved for Child Benefit).   

How much Child Benefit will I get?

You can claim £20.50 per week for your first child and £13.55 a week for any further children you have.

That adds up to over £1,000 a year for your first child, and an extra £700 a year for any subsequent children.

Update: Child Benefit is no longer available to people earning over £60,000. People earning £50,000 to £60,000 will lose some of their Child Benefit depending on their income. You can find out more in our Child Benefit Q&A section.

Child Benefit is no longer available to people earning over £60,000

How do I claim Child Benefit?

You need to fill out a Child Benefit (CH2) form which the hospital should give you after the birth. If not you can download it here. Once you have completed it, send it to the Child Benefit Office along with your child’s original birth certificate (you’ll get this back).

If you don’t have the certificate you can send in the form anyway and send in the certificate when you have it.

Remember! Child Benefit can only be backdated a maximum of three months. In other words, if you don’t claim it within three months of your baby’s birth, you’ll miss out on some of this family allowance that you’ll never get back.

Want more info on Child Benefit?

See our full Child Benefit Q&A section.

 

Free prescriptions and NHS dental treatment

Who can get free prescriptions and dental treatment?

Women who are pregnant, or have given birth in the last 12 months – so it is mainly one of the maternity benefits you’re entitled to.

However your child will also benefit from free prescriptions and dental care until they are 16.

How do I claim my free prescriptions and dental treatment?

You will need a Maternity Exemption (FW8) form, which you can get from your doctor or midwife. They’ll sign it and send it off to your local health authority.

You’ll then be sent an exemption certificate – take it with you to the pharmacy to get your prescription for free. For free dental treatment, just inform the dentist’s receptionist you are eligible for free treatment when booking your appointment.

 

Child Tax Credits

What are Child Tax Credits?

Child tax credit benefitTax credits are payments from the government that go straight into your bank account.

Child Tax Credit is for those who have a new baby or are responsible for children under 16.

(You may also be able to claim Child Tax Credits until your children are 20 years old, provided they are in an approved full-time education or training course. See what training and education qualifies for Child Tax Credits).

You may qualify for Child Tax Credit if you go back to work after having a baby – but you don’t have to be in work to claim.

If you do work, you may also be able to claim Working Tax Credit to help with childcare costs (covered below in the benefits available to parents who work section).

Who can get Child Tax Credits?

HMRC says there’s no set limit for Child Tax Credits – it depends on your individual circumstances (and those of your partner) – such as the size of your family.

However – as a rough guide – you are unlikely to qualify for Child Tax Credits if:

  • You have one child and your household income is more than £26,000
  • You have two children and your household income is more than £32,200

However bear in mind the above figures are only a very ROUGH guide. If you have a higher household income you may still be eligible for tax credits (for example if you have significant childcare costs or your child has a disability). It will depend on your individual circumstances.

If in doubt, use the government’s tax credits calculator to find out if you qualify.

You can receive Child Tax Credit whether you are in work or not.

If you’re claiming tax credits and your situation changes, you must inform the tax office

How much will I get?

Tax credits can be worth thousands of pounds a year.

The amount of Child Tax Credit you get is based on a number of factors (such as how much you earn, the number of hours you work, the size of your family, and so on).

The easiest way to find out how much Child Tax Credit you are due is to use HMRC’s Tax Credits Calculator.

Remember! If you’re claiming tax credits and your situation changes (such as you change jobs, change the number of hours you work, or your childcare costs change, you must inform the tax office or you may have to pay back money or even face a fine. For more details see our tax credit article below.

How do I claim Child Tax Credit?

You can get a claim form by phoning the HMRC helpline on 0345 300 3900.

Want more info on Child Tax Credit?

See our full article on Child Tax Credit.

 

FAMILY BENEFITS FOR PARENTS WHO WORK


maternity benefits for parents who workStatutory Maternity Pay

What is statutory maternity pay?

Statutory maternity pay is one of the maternity benefits you’re entitled to as an employee, and it entitles pregnant women to 39 weeks paid leave from their job.

Who can get it?

To qualify for statutory maternity pay, you need to have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks up to the ‘qualifying week’ – the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth. (It sounds complicated, but it just means that you need to have started your job before you got pregnant. If you need help working out your weeks, your midwife can help.)

How much will I get?

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For the first six weeks, you’ll be paid 90% of your average gross weekly earnings.

Then, for the remaining 33 weeks, you’ll get £138.18 per week or 90% of your average gross weekly earnings – whichever is lower.

How do I claim statutory maternity pay?

You can take maternity leave when you are 29 weeks pregnant or more. You need to tell your employer in writing and give them at least 15 weeks notice of your due date. You will need to provide a copy of your maternity certificate.

Want more info on statutory maternity pay?

See our full article on statutory maternity pay.

 

Maternity Allowance

What is the Maternity Allowance?

Maternity Allowance is a maternity benefit paid to self-employed pregnant women (and some who work part-time). You may also qualify if you have stopped work to have a baby.

Who can get it?

The maternity allowance is a family allowance for women who have been pregnant for at least 26 weeks, and who fall into the following categories:

  • Self-employed.
  • Haven’t been working for their employer long enough to qualify for statutory maternity pay.
  • Have recently stopped work in order to have a baby (you must have been employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week your baby is due)
  • Earning at least £30 a week for 13 weeks or more
  • Help their spouse run their business, but are not employed by their spouse

Part-time workers receive full statutory maternity pay if they earn £111 or more a week. If they don’t, they may be eligible for the Maternity Allowance.

However you won’t get it if you are unemployed*, haven’t been working or earn less than £30 a week.

* UPDATE: If you are unemployed but help your spouse run their business, you may qualify for a new lower rate of Maternity Allowance – £27 per week for 14 weeks. (Your baby must be due on or after 27 July 2014 to qualify.) If you think you might be eligible for the lower rate of Maternity Allowance, you can calculate your maternity pay and benefits here.

How much will I get?

Standard Maternity Allowance pays a standard weekly rate of £138.18, or 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax (whichever is smaller). It is paid for up to 39 weeks.

UPDATE: You may qualify for the lower rate of Maternity Allowance (£27 for 14 weeks) if you help your spouse run their business but are not employed by them.

Impact on other benefits

Maternity allowance doesn’t affect tax credits, but it can affect how much you get for:

  • Housing benefit
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Jobseeker’s Allowance (you can’t claim Jobseeker’s Allowance and Maternity Allowance at the same time)
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Council Tax Allowance

How do I claim maternity allowance?

Maternity allowance payments can start from 11 weeks before your baby is due. It must be claimed within three months of the birth or you could lose out on some or all of the benefit. To claim, contact your local Jobcentre Plus (you can call them on 0800 055 6688) or you can download an application form here.

Remember you can calculate your maternity pay and benefits here.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

What is ESA?

ESA BenefitESA used to be called incapacity benefit. It is paid to people who are unable to work because of illness or disability (or, in some cases, pregnancy).

Who can get it?

You can apply for ESA when pregnant if you don’t qualify for maternity pay or a maternity allowance (see above). To qualify you will need to have made sufficient National Insurance contributions.

How much will I get?

The rate of ESA depends on your circumstances. ESA is £72.40 a week for a person over 25 or a single parent over 18. It’s paid from six weeks before your baby is due until two weeks after your baby is born.

How do I claim ESA?

You can make your claim by completing form MA1 for Maternity Allowance (see above for the section on Maternity Allowance). Some of the questions on the form may not apply to you – if so just leave them blank. If you don’t qualify for Maternity Allowance, ask your Jobcentre to check your National Insurance record to see if you would be eligible for ESA.

 

Ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay

What is Ordinary Statutory Paternity Pay?

Paternity pay entitles a mother’s partner paid leave from their job.

Fathers can now take additional paternity leave beyond two weeks

Who can get it?

Husbands, partners and civil partners. You need to have been working for your employer before your partner’s pregnancy to qualify. You also need to have weekly earnings of £111 (or more) before tax to qualify.

How much will I get?

The most paternity pay you can receive is £138.18 a week. It’s paid for a maximum of 2 weeks (which must be taken consecutively), and is in addition to any maternity pay the mother is entitled to.

Fathers can take additional paternity leave, but it will be unpaid – UNLESS the mother returns to work. If the mother decides to return to work, fathers can take up to 26 weeks’ paid Additional Paternity Leave (this may make sense if the mother is the main breadwinner).

See our guide to paternity leave for more details.

Want more info on paternity leave?

See our full article on How much paternity leave are fathers entitled to in the UK?

 

Working Tax Credit

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What is Working Tax Credit?

Tax credits are payments from the government that go straight into your bank account.

Working Tax Credit is paid to people in work. Although it’s aimed at those on lower pay, the maximum household income for Child Tax Credits is £72,000 (if you have four kids),£65,300 (if you have three) £58,900 (if you have two) and £41,200 (if you have one).

You may be able to claim Working Tax Credit to help with childcare costs.

If you receive Child Tax Credit (see the Benefits for all families section) you can also apply for Working Tax Credit.

Who can get it?

To qualify for Working Tax Credit, you will need to work a certain number of hours a week:

  • If you’re a single parent, disabled, a carer or over 60… you need to work at least 16 hours a week.
  • If you’re a couple… you normally need to work at least 24 hours a week between you (with one of you working a minimum of 16 hours).

How much will I get?

If you’re claiming tax credits and your situation changes, you must inform the tax office

The amount of Working Tax Credit you may be entitled to depends on your income and other circumstances, such as your childcare costs.

However the basic amount you can claim (either as a couple or as a single parent) is up to £1,940 a year. But you may get more (or less) depending on your circumstances – such as whether you’re a couple or a single parent. How many hours you work will also have an impact.

The easiest way to find out how much Working Tax Credit you are due is to use HMRC’s Tax Credits Calculator.

Remember! If you’re claiming tax credits and your situation changes (such as you change jobs, change the number of hours you work, or your childcare costs change, you must inform the tax office or you may have to pay back money or even face a fine. For more details see our tax credit articles below.

How do I claim Working Tax Credits?

You can get a claim form by phoning the HMRC helpline on 0345 300 3900.

Want more info on Working Tax Credits?

See our full article on Working Tax Credit.

 

FAMILY BENEFITS FOR PARENTS ON A LOW INCOME

maternity benefits parents low incomeHealthy Start

What is Healthy Start?

Healthy Start is a maternity benefit scheme which provides free food vouchers (for things like infant milk formula, fruit and vegetables) and vitamins to pregnant women and families on a low income.

Who can get it?

You need to be at least ten weeks pregnant or have a child under four and receive one of the following:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit and have an annual family income of less than £16,190.

How do I apply?

You can get an application form and more information at the Healthy Start website.

Help with hospital fares

Who can get help with fares to hospital?

You can get your travel fares to hospital refunded (including all your antenatal appointments) if you or your family gets Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support. If you get Child Tax Credits or Pension Credits you may also be eligible for fare refunds.

You will only get refunds for public transport or petrol costs. You can only claim for taxi fares if there is no alternative way to get to your appointment.

How do I claim my travel costs?

Claim at the hospital by bringing proof that you receive the relevant benefit. You can claim up to three months of past travel costs by getting an HC5 form (which your hospital should also be able to give you).

 

Income Support

What is Income Support?

Income Support benefitIncome Support is a benefit paid to those on a low income who are working less than 16 hours a week but haven’t signed on as unemployed. It’s often paid to those who are not looking for work – because they are pregnant or a lone parent, for example.

If you claim Income Support and have children, you can also claim Child Tax Credits.

Who can get it?

Income Support can be paid to pregnant women from 11 weeks before the baby’s due date until 15 weeks after the birth (provided the mother is not working more than 16 hours a week).

How much will I get?

This depends on your personal circumstances, such as your age, income and level of savings. You will get at least £57.35 a week if you have no income, however.

How do I apply?

You apply through your local Jobcentre. You can download an application form here or call the Jobcentre helpine on 0800 055 6688.

 

Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

What is Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance?

Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance is paid to people who are unemployed and looking for work, or who only work a limited number of hours.

Who can get it?

The amount you get ranges from £57.35 a week to £113.70 a week

Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance is paid to people who are unemployed or who work less than 16 hours a week. You must be looking and available for work to claim. If you live with a partner, they must work less than 24 hours a week.

At 11 weeks before your baby’s due date, you can switch to claiming Income Support (see above) so that you no longer have to ‘sign on’ and look for work.

How much will I get?

The amount you get depends on your age, relationship status and your level of income and savings – it ranges from £57.35 a week for a single person under 25, to £113.70 a week for a couple aged 18 or over.

How do I apply?

You apply through your local Jobcentre. You can apply online or by phone (0800 055 6688), but you will need to attend an interview at your local Jobcentre to complete your claim.

 

Sure Start Maternity Grant

What is the Sure Start Maternity Grant?

The Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one off payment of £500 to help parents on a low income cover the costs of their first child.

If you are on a low income or on certain benefits you could get an extra £500 to help cover the costs of your first child

Who can get it?

Pregnant women expecting their first child who are on a low income or the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit at a rate higher than the family element
  • Working Tax Credit that includes a disability or severe disability element

How much will I get?

£500.

How do I apply?

Ask your midwife or Jobcentre for form SF100. Your midwife will need to sign the form. You must claim within 11 weeks of expecting the baby or within 3 months of the birth.

Want more info on the Sure Start Maternity Grant?

See our full article on the Sure Start Maternity Grant.

 

Housing Benefit

What is Housing Benefit?

Housing benefitHousing Benefit helps those on low incomes pay some or all of their rent.

Who can get it?

You can get Housing Benefit if you are liable to pay rent at a property and have a low income. It doesn’t matter whether you’re employed or unemployed. Whether your claim is successful depends on things like your level of income and savings (the latter must be under £16,000). If you live with a partner only one of you can claim.

How much will I get?

The amount you get will depend on both your income and savings and the amount of rent you pay.

How do I apply?

You can apply for Housing Benefit through your local council. Ask them for an HCTB1 claim form or download one here.

Want more info on Housing Benefit?

See our full article on Housing Benefit.

Council Tax Benefit / Council Tax Reduction

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What is Council Tax Benefit / Council Tax Reduction?

Council Tax Benefit was stopped from April 2013. You can now apply for something called Council Tax Reduction instead.

Council Tax Reduction is for those on benefits or a low income who struggle to pay their Council Tax.

Who can get it?

It depends on your circumstances. When making a claim they take into account things like your income, savings, and living arrangements.

How much will I get?

Again it depends on your circumstances. Also the Council Tax Reduction policy varies from council to council – some are more generous than others.

How do I apply?

You apply through your local council. There’s a handy tool over at Gov.uk that takes you through the process of applying here.

Want more info on Council Tax Benefit?

The way Council Tax Benefit is worked out changed from April 2013. See the details here.

If you have a question about maternity rights or family benefits that isn’t answered above, get in touch by commenting below and we’ll try and find you the answer!