Work and Finance
There’s no universally agreed date by which you should start maternity leave. How long you continue at work will depend on the kind of tasks you do there, your health and how the pregnancy is going, how flexible your employer can be if you have one, and how you feel.
Bear in mind that twins, triplets or more are physically demanding, though. It’s a good idea to leave a period for rest and relaxation at the end of your pregnancy, and most people who’ve been there recommend stopping work at some time between 28 and 30 weeks.
If you are carrying more than two babies, or have any health complications, you may need to stop working before this.
Sure Start Maternity Grant
If you are on a low income, the Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one-off payment to help towards the costs of a new baby. The grant comes from the Social Fund and you don’t have to repay it. The grant isn’t affected by any savings, and currently stands at £500 for each baby for first born children but less if you have children already and then have twins, triplets or more.
A word of warning: each year we hear from parents of multiples who miss out on a Sure Start Maternity Grant because they get their forms in too late. This is especially likely to happen where babies are born premature or poorly and the first weeks are taken up with caring for them in hospital. But it also happens to parents run off their feet at home with their newborns.
It’s therefore worth filling in the forms well before the babies are born. In fact, you can claim from 11 weeks before the birth until the baby is three months old. If you’re waiting for a decision on benefits or tax credits, do not delay in making your claim. You can fill these details in later; the important thing is to get your claim in within the three-month time limit. If you need a hand dealing with the forms, your midwife should be able to help.
For details of exactly who qualifies for a Sure Start Maternity Grant and how to claim, go to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) website at www.dwp.gov.uk.
Maternity leave: useful facts
If you are in permanent employment, you are entitled to take one year’s maternity leave. You can receive Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) from your employer for nine months of that (39 weeks). Maternity leave is per pregnancy not per child, so you get no extra for twins, triplets or more.
The amount you get depends on your earnings. The first six weeks of SMP are earnings related and you will get a weekly rate equal to 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings (there is no upper limit). The remaining 33 weeks are paid at the weekly standard rate SMP of £135.45 (from 1 April 2012) or the earnings-related rate if this is less than standard rate SMP.
The earliest date SMP can start is the 11th week before your babies are due, and the latest from the day following the birth. If the babies are born earlier than this, SMP will start from the day following the birth. You will be able to work for a total of 10 days during your maternity leave without losing entitlement.
To claim SMP, you need to tell your employer when you want it to start, and you have to do this by the 15th week before the babies are due (they will need to see your MATB1 maternity certificate, available from your midwife or doctor at around 20 weeks of pregnancy). You are entitled to change your mind, but must give your employer 28 days’ notice.
You can still get SMP from your employer even if you don’t intend to return to work, and you will not have to pay it back.
Self-employed women and others not entitled to SMP may be entitled to Maternity Allowance (MA). The amount depends on your gross average weekly earnings. You will get the standard rate of MA, which is £135.45 a week (from 9 April 2012) or 90 per cent of your gross average weekly earnings, if this calculation results in a figure which is less than the standard rate of MA. The rules are slightly different for women holding a Small Earning Exemption Certificate, and it is best to consult the DWP website at www.dwp.gov.uk.
If a multiple pregnancy affects your health so that you have to stop work before you are entitled to maternity benefits, you may be able to claim sickness benefits instead. For more on this as well as the other benefits listed above, contact the DWP.
Tamba’s Preparing for Parenthood Guide also outlines who qualifies for SMP and MA, how to claim paternity leave and pay, and what unpaid leave both parents can take.
Follow the links to find out more about finding out you are expecting multiples, antenatal care, looking after yourself, common symptoms in multiple pregnancies, complications, preparing for your babies’ arrival, and birth plans.