When considering the best time to go on maternity leave you should bear in mind that being pregnant with twins, triplets or more can be physically demanding. It’s a good idea to leave a period for rest and relaxation at the end of your pregnancy, and most people who’ve experienced this recommend stopping work at some time between 28 and 30 weeks.
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, how the pregnancy is going, how flexible your employer can be if you have one, and how you feel.
If you are carrying triplet or higher order babies, or have any health complications, you may need to stop working before this.
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 (39 weeks). Maternity leave is per pregnancy not per child, so unfortunately you get no extra for twins, triplets or more.
The amount you receive will depend on your earnings. The first six weeks of SMP are earnings related which will be a weekly rate equal to 90% of your average weekly earnings (there is no upper limit). The remaining 33 weeks are paid at the weekly standard rate SMP of £140.98 or the earnings-related rate if this is less than standard rate SMP. Some employers also offer their own maternity pay rates.
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 early, 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. Please discuss with your employer if you are receiving a company based maternity pay as this may be different.
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 £156.64 a week 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.
If a twin, triplet or more 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.
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is a right for parents which may allow you to share leave with a partner and/or split up periods of leave.