"Why is it that self-
employed women are worse off when it comes to pregnancy benefits?
"I’ve been self-employed for six years, and before that was in full-time work since the age of 18.
"I’ve paid my national insurance contributions and taxes up to date, yet it seems I’m entitled to very little. I’m 38 years old and this is my first pregnancy."
Ask the Professionals: Frances Walker, spokesperson for charity the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, says:
You don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay if you’re self- employed. However, you may be able to claim maternity allowance. Both pay the same, so you won’t be any worse off than someone who is relying only on statutory maternity pay, although some women may be receiving more generous maternity payments from their employers.
To get maternity allowance you must have been working for an employer or been self-employed for at least 26 weeks in any of the 66 weeks up to and including the week before your baby is due. Part weeks are counted as full weeks.
You must also have earned an average of £30 a week or more in 13 of the 26 weeks, or paid a Class 2 national insurance contribution for at least 13 of the 26 weeks, regardless of earnings.
The allowance is £123.06 a week or 90% of your recent average earnings, whichever is less. You can start claiming 11 weeks before your baby is due, but you can delay claiming up until the day following the birth. It is paid for up to 39 weeks.
You may also be entitled to a ‘health in pregnancy’ grant, which is payable to most pregnant women who receive advice on keeping healthy during pregnancy from a health professional after the 25th week of pregnancy. See your doctor or midwife to claim this benefit, which is a one-off payment of £190.
If you or your partner are on a low income and entitled to certain benefits another couple of possibilities are the Surestart maternity grant and Healthystart vouchers.
Following the birth, there’s additional financial support available. Most new parents are entitled to child benefit, and households with an annual income of £66,000 or less are usually entitled to child tax credit.