Congratulations on your new arrival! Having a baby can be a wonderful yet stressful time, especially as a junior doctor rotating through different specialities, changing trusts and even moving to different parts of the country.
When JuniorDr’s Sophie Emesih became pregnant as a junior doctor she found it difficult and time consuming to find all the information she needed regarding maternity financial issues. We asked her to compile a list of the top things you need to know.
1. Notify your employer
In order to get maternity leave you need to inform your employer (via your HR department) by the end of the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth (EWC). EWC starts at midnight of the Saturday night of the week your baby is due, e.g. if your baby is due on Wednesday 2nd July, the expected week of childbirth starts on Sunday 29th June.
Include in your letter/email that you are pregnant, the EWC/due date, that you would like to take maternity leave, and the dates which you would like your maternity leave to start and when you wish to return (the latter can be changed later so long as you give your employer 28 days notice).
2. MAT B1
You should automatically get a MAT B1 certificate signed by your midwife or GP when you are 20 weeks pregnant - if not, ask for one! Hand this certificate to your HR department as evidence of your pregnancy and so you can claim maternity pay.
3. Maternity pay
To be entitled to maternity pay under the NHS scheme you must have been in continuous employment with the NHS for 12 months. This entitles you to 8 weeks pay at 100% average weekly earnings, 18 weeks of half pay and statutory maternity pay (SMP), 13 weeks of SMP and 21 weeks of unpaid leave. If you haven’t been employed with the NHS for 12 continuous months but you have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks by the 15th week before the EWC you can still get maternity pay (6 weeks at 90% of your average weekly earnings, 33 weeks of SMP and 13 weeks unpaid leave). If neither of these applies you may be able to claim maternity allowance via the Benefit Agency/Jobcentre. The British Medical Association has a maternity calculator which can help you work out what maternity pay you could be entitled to.
Maternity pay is calculated on your average weekly earnings of the 8 weeks ending with the qualifying week [which is the 15th week before your (EWC)]. The average earnings also include any bandings or supplements you received for those 8 weeks, so this may be different if you change rotations with different banding weighting.
If you plan on taking all 52 weeks of maternity leave, approximately the last three months will be unpaid. You can, however, ask your HR department to annualise your maternity pay – evening it out over the whole 52 weeks so you always have some income.
4. GP trainees
Whilst training in hospital posts, your maternity pay entitlements are the same as above. Once you have started your training within GP surgeries, it is the practice’s maternity policy which applies.
5. Academic Posts
Your maternity entitlements depend upon who your contract is with. If your contract is with a NHS trust then your entitlements are the same as if you are working within the hospital, however, if your contract is with the University you will need to contact the HR department of the University to enquire about their maternity policy.
Whilst on maternity leave you accrue holiday, so find out from your HR department if there are any restrictions/preferences on how you take it and then inform payroll. In my instance I had to split my holiday, taking 9 days before starting maternity leave and taking the other 19 days before I returned. If you are returning to a different trust after your maternity leave, make sure the payroll department is aware of when you will be taking your accrued leave - as it can be difficult to organise once they’ve done your P45.
7. Stop additional fees
Monthly staff car parking charges and junior doctor mess fees soon add up when you’re on maternity leave for a year, so make sure you inform payroll/security that you would like these to stop from ‘x’ month.
8. Child Benefit
Claiming child benefit can help you gain national insurance credits for your state pension as well as help make sure your baby gets a national insurance number, so it’s worth looking into. The form is completed online via the HM Revenues and Customs website. The form then needs to be printed off and sent along with your baby’s birth certificate. It can take up to 12 weeks to process so register your baby’s birth as soon as possible to speed things up.
9. Tax Credits
The amount you could be entitled to varies depending on a number of factors. You can check your eligibility and estimate how much you may be rewarded on the HM Revenues and Customs website. To apply you need to order a form and this can take up to 2 weeks to arrive. The claim can only be backdated one month from the date of the application, so order, complete and send the form as soon as possible. Or, if you’re super organised, you could order the form before your baby’s due date and fill in as much as you can before your baby arrives.
10. GMC, Indemnity Insurance and Society Memberships
There are two issues surrounding these. Firstly, check to see if you can freeze your memberships or if they have a reduced maternity fee and definitely inform them of your maternity leave. Secondly, remember that you can claim tax relief on professional fees and subscriptions. You can claim it by filling in a P87 form which can be found on the HM Revenue and Customs website. The relief usually comes in the form of an altered tax code, however, you may also receive a nice little return - when I sent them my P87 form they also calculated that I had paid too much tax on my earnings and a welcomed tax refund was issued.
11. Returning to work
Contact your HR department at least 1 month before you are due to return and ask for an updated contract. After 12 months of being a doctor at the same grade your basic pay should go up incrementally – so make sure this is correct before signing your new contract. It’s also worth contacting your deanery and checking how your maternity leave and return to work dates have affected your training.
Most importantly enjoy that precious time with your little one!
HM Revenue and Customs
NHS Business Services Authority: NHS Scheme
British Medical Association: Maternity Leave Calculator
Women’s Medical Federation