Help with Maternity Leave/SMP

Hi!  Not sure if I'm posting this in the right place but hoping someone can offer some advice.  I'm sorry if this is a bit long. 

I'm currently 31 weeks pregnant with my first child and planning to continue working up until Christmas, and potentially a few days after, to try and maximise the amount of time I can take off after baby arrives.  The SME I work for only offers Statutory Maternity Pay - not unsurprising as I'm the first one to take maternity leave and I imagine they don't want to set a precedent, but it's still pretty disappointing (we're a close knit company of about 15-20 people).  While I certainly don't earn loads, there's going to be a really big hole in our monthly income as soon as it drops after the initial 6 weeks off.  Even with SMP, and potentially child benefit, we'll still be down about £1100 a month on what we normally bring in.  It appears we don't qualify for any additional help benefits-wise, presumably due to my partner's income (which is basically the same as mine, so shared parental leave won't make much difference to our financial situation).  While we don't have any huge debts beyond some basic credit card debt (currently on 0%) and a very small car loan, we do have a large mortgage and live pretty close to our means month to month bills-wise.  We don't live extravagantly and there's not that much room to tighten our belts.  I've only managed to save about £1000 since finding out we were expecting.    

Now, it's not like we weren't aware of this beforehand and so we put by around £9000 out of our house renovation budget to try and cover my leave.  I had hoped, with a few cuts to our spending here and there, it would allow me to take at least 9 months off.  However, with the current cost of living crisis and absolutely everything going up, I'm not sure that's going to last as long as I hoped.  Everything is also costing a lot more to try and get our house liveable, and it's becoming a very fine (and stressful) balancing act between spending to make sure we're comfortable (as I know we'll have no spare cash once LO arrives) and saving enough so I don't have to go back to work too early.  I know we could have saved longer, not stretched ourselves when we bought our house, or waited until it was in a more liveable state, but I'm in my late 30s and we didn't want to push our luck too far.  This is likely to be our only child, mainly for financial reasons, and I really want to make the most of some precious time with our new baby without being forced back to work too early.  

Hence, I come onto my real question....does anybody have any tried and tested ways of earning some extra money during maternity leave?  I have considered freelancing, but to do what I do day-to-day would require getting insurances etc. and I'm thinking this could be very expensive, with no guarantee of getting much interest.  I also have to get permission from my bosses (contractually), and they're currently only "considering it."  I believe I can't freelance or work in any other capacity for my current employer (beyond KIT days) as that stops my SMP.  From what I've read (and it sounds a complete minefield), legally I'm also not allowed to be employed by anybody else during maternity leave, so if I were to do anything it would have to be on a self-employed basis.  I've heard of people doing data entry, transcribing etc. but I don't know how you sign up to something like that without being technically "employed."  And obviously I'd need something flexible I can do from home, as and when I'm able to, just to try and top up my SMP here and there.  Anything I could do to try and maximise my time off before needing to return to work, really.  I've looked at mortgage holidays and other things, but I know this doesn't really make financial sense.  We already have a long repayment term and have only recently remortgaged (luckily just before the current crisis) so I'm not sure we'd be eligible anyway.     

If anyone has any good ideas, or could advise on the legal aspects of working while claiming SMP, I'd be hugely grateful.  I don't really need any judgement - I'm already pretty stressed and don't need to hear "well you should have done such and such..."  Just constructive advice moving forwards, if possible.  Many thanks for reading  :)         


  • PandaGirl6
    PandaGirl6 Forumite Posts: 20
    10 Posts Name Dropper
    Are you looking to work from home?

    If you're creative you could try selling handmade items on Etsy or marketplace or Facebook marketplace.

    I'm not far behind you with the bump. 😉 I'm trying to come up with a side hussle right now - you never know, it might evolve into something bigger.
    That being said - I only think about it, as I might be looking at a career change or going back to employment part time.
    You might find that the maternity leave goes by in a blink of an eye.

    E-commerce can be very lucrative.

    Photography, beauty, mindfulness classes, there are some options, just really depends what your strengths are.

    I can't work in the same industry under my contract, but completely unrelated roles would be fine. Not sure what your field is, but my bestie is an architect and she can freelance as long as the location is +50miles away.
    Have you explained to you employer how you'd avoid conflict of interest?
  • Fierybiscuits
    Fierybiscuits Forumite Posts: 11
    Seventh Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker

    Thanks so much for your reply.  I'm glad I'm not the only one!  Funnily enough I'm also an architect like your friend.  Doing the odd freelance job (if I could find any work, that is!), would really help top up the SMP but my employers have now said no as it's "competition."  I'm pretty disappointed.  I live about 20 miles away and the practice rarely has jobs this way, but I don't really want to push the issue with them too much.  I do have something I specialise in that they're happy for me to freelance, but I think I'd have to go through a lengthy accreditation process to be able to set up by myself.  Although I want to look into this more while I'm on leave as it's a longer term goal for me to work solely in that area, and I'd love to have a more flexible job - it's just a confidence thing! 
    I might have a look at some other potential side hustles in the meantime.  Hope you find something too, and good luck with the rest of your pregnancy  :smile:     
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