Do Locum Doctors Get Maternity Pay?
Locum F3 doctors often mistakenly think that by leaving contracted employment, they lose their employee rights like sick pay, maternity or paternity leave, rest breaks, and annual leave. However, this is not necessarily true. Is important to understand your contract and your rights, and to know what you are entitled to or you may miss out on money and other benefits.
In this article we will focus on locum doctor rights to Maternity Pay / Parental Leave. It is definitely a complicated subject, but hopefully we have broken it down into understandable chunks for you.
You can learn more about employment rights in these articles:
🔍 Employment Rights: Leave
In the UK, all pregnant employees are entitled to 26 weeks Ordinary Maternity Leave and 26 weeks Additional Maternity Leave whether or not they qualify for Statutory Maternity Pay, or Maternity Allowance. Additional Maternity Leave starts immediately after Ordinary Maternity Leave so women have 52 weeks maternity leave in total.
Employed fathers may have a basic right to 1 or 2 weeks paternity leave and Statutory Paternity Pay to take time off work to care for the baby or support the mother following birth. To get this the employee must be either the baby’s biological father or the partner of the mother, and take responsibility for the child’s upbringing. However, many private companies offer more generous schemes for paternity leave.
In the UK, parental leave is the right to take unpaid time off work to look after a child or to make arrangements for the child’s welfare. It applies to anyone who has formal parental responsibility for a child, and lasts until the child’s 5th birthday (or 18th birthday for children with disabilities).
🔍 Employment Rights: Pay
The NHS Scheme
To qualify for Maternity leave and pay under the NHS scheme doctors are required to have worked 12-months of continuous service with 1 or more NHS employers at the beginning of the 11th week before the expected week of childbirth, and have stated their intention to return to work within the NHS at the end of the leave period.
The NHS scheme provides doctors with pays 8 weeks of full pay, 18 weeks of half pay, 13 weeks of Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, and 13 weeks’ unpaid leave. Locum doctors can qualify for the NHS scheme provided they meet the same preconditions around continuous service as contracted doctors (defined above).
The Social Security Scheme
Locum doctors (and contracted doctors) who do not meet the conditions for the NHS scheme may instead be eligible for either Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance under the Social Security Scheme.
Statutory Maternity Pay
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is a weekly payment lasting up to 39 weeks, that you get from your employer. Because the payment comes from your employer, it is paid in the same way as your wages (either weekly or monthly) and your tax and national insurance contributions are automatically deducted from the payment before you receive it.
The value of the payment depends on how much you earn.
👉 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
👉 £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
To be eligible for SMP you must be classed as an ‘employee’ and not a ‘worker’. This means that locum doctors working as sole traders or through limited companies may not be eligible for SMP but locum doctors working through the staff bank as PAYE / zero hours may qualify. They must give their employer the correct notice and proofs of pregnancy, and satisfy two rules:
✅ The continuous employment rule
✅ The earnings rule
Continuous Employment Rule
‘You must have been employed by your employer for a continuous period of at least 26 weeks into the qualifying week (which is the 15th week before the week in which the baby is due). This period must include at least 1 days employment in the qualifying week.’
For locum doctors this can be complicated but what is means is that you must have been employed (as a PAYE or zero hours employee, or through an agency) for at least 26 weeks before the 15th week prior to your due date. Broken employment (i.e. irregular working patterns) can still count as employment depending on the reasons that you did not work certain weeks. You can learn more about this here.
The Earnings Rule
Your average weekly earnings must meet the lower earnings threshold for National Insurance (NI) purposes (in other words, you must be making at least £123 per week on average). At the lower earnings limit, you may not actually be making NI contributions, but your income is such that you are treated as if you have contributed. The point at which you actually start making NI contributions is a higher threshold, called the primary earnings threshold.
The nature of locum work is such that it fluctuates, and you may earn well above this limit some weeks, and well under it other weeks. As long as your average earnings (over a period of at least 8 weeks before the 15th week before your due date - known as the ‘relevant period’) are at or above this limit then you will satisfy the Earnings Rule. You can learn more about this here.
Maternity Allowance (MA) is a weekly payment lasting up to 39 weeks, that comes from Jobcentre Plus. You do not pay income tax or NI contributions on Maternity Allowance. You get either a weekly payment of £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is less).
You may be eligible for MA if, in the 66 weeks before your baby’s due date, you have:
👉 Been employed but cannot get Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
👉 Been registered with HMRC as self-employed for at least 26 weeks*
👉 Recently stopped working
👉 Taken part in unpaid work for the business of your spouse or civil partner
👉 Earned (or be classed as earning) £30 a week or more in at least 13 weeks - the weeks do not have to be together
Even if you’ve recently stopped working or have had different jobs or periods of unemployment you may still qualify.
* For locum doctors, it is important to note that: the 26 weeks do not have to be in a row and do not need to be full weeks of work. You do not have to be actually physically at work to be considered employed or self-employed; you might be off work sick or have been on Statutory Maternity Leave for an earlier pregnancy for example.
If you are not eligible for SMP or MA, then you may be entitled to other benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), jobseekers allowance, income support, or the Sure Start Maternity Grant.
Sure Start Maternity Grant
The Sure Start Maternity Grant is a one-off payment of £500 to help families towards the costs of having a child. In order to qualify for this grant, you and your partner must:
✅ be expecting your first child, or you’re expecting a multiple birth (such as twins) and have children already
✅ already be getting certain government benefits
You must claim the grant within 11 weeks of the baby’s due date or within 6 months after the baby’s birth. You do not have to pay the grant back and it will not affect your other benefits or tax credits.
Depending on your individual circumstances, there are a number of different maternity schemes you may qualify for as a locum doctor including the NHS scheme, Statutory Maternity Pay, or Maternity Allowance.
The key deciding factor as to whether you qualify for the NHS scheme is your months of continuous NHS service, which can be counted as a locum doctor.
Depending on how you are working (i.e. through an agency, a staff bank, or as a self-employed person), you may qualify for different schemes.
Once you find out you are pregnant, you should speak to your Trust HR department to check your eligibility for the NHS or SMP schemes. If you encounter any difficulties or feel you have been given a wrong response by the Trust, speak to your BMA representative who may be able to provide you with additional support and advice.The BMA have some extra guidance on this here.
This article is part of a wider series of comprehensive guides and information to help doctors ensure their F3 year is a success. We cover everything from initial planning, options for moving abroad, help with finding work, and tips for making the most of the experience.
Click here to visit our F3 Resource Hub to explore the full list of guides and articles.