When making the jump from traditional working hours to contracting, one of the main concerns of many people is whether they will still enjoy the same employment rights as before. The good news is that with an umbrella company they can – and this includes maternity rights. But what maternity rights do people using umbrella companies have, and how do they help female contractors who are starting a family?
Statutory maternity pay
One of the benefits of going through an umbrella company is that you can claim statutory maternity pay.To qualify for this, you must have been continuously employed by your umbrella provider for at least 26 weeks by the time it gets to the 15th week before the baby is due. There is a minimum level of average weekly earnings before this can be claimed, so it is important to looking into the Lower Earnings Limit for National Insurance Contributions, which will be a factor in whether you can receive statutory maternity pay or not.
I’ve not been with my umbrella provider for 26 weeks!
If you’ve just switched umbrella provider, and therefore have not been with them for 26 weeks, don’t worry – all is not lost. Your umbrella provider will supply you with a form SMP1 which will help you claim Maternity Allowance (MA). This form needs to be taken to the Job Centre Plus or local Social Security Office, and will be able to assess whether you are entitled to MA.
However, if you do not qualify for either statutory maternity pay or MA, there is still something you can do to secure a bit of cash to help you through your pregnancy.You may still qualify for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) instead. What’s more, if you have already applied for MA, you don’t need to complete a new form, as the Job Centre Plus or Social Security Office will automatically check whether you are eligable for ESA if you don’t meet the requirements for MA.
When does the statutory maternity pay start coming through?
If you’ve qualified for SMP then you can look forward to your maternity pay anytime after the 11th week of pregnancy. In order to secure a start date, you simply need to send written notice to your umbrella provider 28 days before you want payments to start. The umbrella company will then confirm payment dates with you, as well as the amount you can expect. It is also good practice to give eight weeks notice before you come back to work. This will make sure your umbrella provider has time to let you know of any changes in their processes and help to ensure your return to work is smooth.
During your maternity leave
You can work up to ten days while you are on maternity pay – you don’t have to put in all the hours you normally would for it to count as one of your ‘keeping in touch’ days. These days are designed to allow the individual to undergo training or carry out some occasional work which is needed to help assist their return to work. However, if you go over the ten days, the statutory maternity pay cannot be paid for these extra days.
Choosing an umbrella company
Whether you are thinking of starting a family or not, it is important to compare the benefits different umbrella companies offer. Have a browse of the internet or read some umbrella company reviews before deciding on the right one for you.