From bump to baby: understanding your benefits entitlement and financial options

British Pounds | www.angeliquelee.co.uk

1. Child benefit

You can get child benefit if you’re responsible for a child under 16 (or under 20 if they stay in certain education courses or training programmes). The current rate is £20.50 for the eldest or only child and £13.55 per child for additional children. It’s usually paid every 4 weeks into your bank account. The claim for child benefit can only be backdated for up to 3 months. So, if you’ve just had a baby, make sure you submit your claim before your baby is 3 months old.

Read more about child benefit on Gov.UK.

2. NHS prescriptions and dental care

These are free while you’re pregnant and until your baby is 1 year old. Children also get free prescriptions until they’re 16.

To claim your free prescriptions, ask your doctor or midwife for Form FW8 and send it to your health authority, who in turn, will send you an exemption certificate that lasts for a year after your due date. If you’re only claiming after your baby is born, you’ll need to fill in Form A in leaflet P11 NHS Prescriptions, which you can get from your doctor or JobCentre Plus.

To claim your free dental care, all you have to do is tick the relevant box on the form provided by your dentist or show your exemption certificate.

3. Healthy start vouchers

Basically… free milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables, and vitamins. Not everyone qualifies though. You’ll qualify if you’re under 18 and pregnant; otherwise, you’ll need to be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 and you or your family are on certain benefits (for example, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, etc).

To check if you qualify, visit the NHS Healthy Start website.

4. Tax credits

There are two types of tax credit: child tax credit, which gives financial support for children, and working tax credit, which gives financial support for people in lower-paid jobs. If your household income is more than £26,000 (for a family with one child) or £32,600 (for a family with 2 children), you might not qualify for tax credits. But, whether you can actually get tax credits will depend on your circumstances. Use the tax credit questionnaire and the tax credit calculator as your starting point. If you’re still unsure, call the HMRC Tax Credit Helpline.

If you qualify for working tax credit, you could also get extra tax credits to help with the costs of childcare while you’re working. Read more about childcare and tax credits on Gov.UK.

5. Sure start maternity grant

Sure start maternity grant is a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a child. You usually qualify if you’re expecting your first child (or multiple birth and have children already) and you’re on certain benefits (for example, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, etc). You must submit your claim within 11 weeks of your baby’s due date or within 3 months after your baby is born.

Read more about sure start maternity grant on Gov.UK.

6. Childcare

If you’re planning to return to work fairly soon after the birth of your baby (like me), you might want to think in advance about childcare as it can take some time for you to find a satisfactory arrangement. For example, if you want to send your baby to the nursery, you’ll want to start looking from as early as the second trimester; from what I heard, places (at both state and private nurseries) get filled up incredibly quickly. Or maybe, nursery is not an option because you may have a demanding career that requires you to work long hours (again, like me) and you just can’t commit yourself to sending and picking up your baby at a fixed hour each day. In that case, you might want to think about hiring someone to look after your baby at home – a nanny, childminder, or perhaps you have a relative who’s willing to help? And of course, you’ll have to consider the costs – whichever way you do it (unless you have an incredibly supportive and generous relative), childcare is expensive! Be prepared to pay around £150 – £200 a week for it, and that’s a conservative figure according to everyone I spoke to (I’m talking about London, of course).

Here are a few websites you can use as a starting point in your research:

7. Life insurance

Now that you have a baby, you probably should start looking into life insurance (if you don’t already have one). You’ve got to think about your family well-being if something should happen to you. There are quite a number of reputable companies out there; so do your research. In the meantime, you could sign up to a £10,000 free life cover which takes effect from the day you apply until your baby’s first birthday from companies such Post Office. Asda used to offer it as well but I can’t seem to find it on their website now.

8. Junior investment

Once you’ve got your life insurance sorted out, you might also want to start thinking about investing for your child’s future with the Junior Individual Savings Account (Junior ISA), be it a cash Junior ISA or a stocks and shares Junior ISA. You can open an account with any banks, building societies, credit unions, friendly societies and stock brokers.

Read more about Junior ISA on Gov.UK.

9. Useful websites you can (and probably should) refer to:

Maternity and paternity benefits and leave on the NHS’s website and Gov.UK, which contains every possible information you need to know.

PS: If you’re an employee, you might also be interested in this article: “From bump to baby: your rights and entitlements at work”

£5 off Sainsbury’s Little Ones Range!

Thought I’d share this. A while ago, I wrote a post about how to shop smart and get your hands on bargains and freebies – for mums-to-be, I mentioned joining the Sainsbury’s Baby and Toddler Club to receive a £5 money off coupon to be spent on any combination of products from the Sainsbury’s Little Ones range. So, I redeemed my coupon yesterday, and these are the products I bought for a mere £.0.35! The original price was £5.35 (£3 for the 4 x 80 fragrance free baby wipes, £1 for the baby lotion, and £.1.35 for the baby nappy cream). Pretty good deal, huh? And I think it’s nice that there isn’t a minimum spend required for you to use your voucher (of course, it’d be silly not to spend at least £5)!

Sainsburys Little One Products - Free with Voucher | www.angeliquelee.co.uk

 

Sainsburys Little One Voucher - Join Now Steps

Disclosure: this is a non-sponsored post – I was not financially compensated in anyway and I will not be financially compensated in anyway should you decide to join the Baby and Toddler Club.

From bump to baby: your rights and entitlements at work

British Pounds | www.angeliquelee.co.uk

1. Decide when to tell your boss

You don’t have to tell your employer until the 15th week before the week your baby is due, but you won’t be able to take time off for antenatal appointments until you’ve told them about your pregnancy. So, if you don’t want to use up your annual leave to go for antenatal care, you might want to tell them from as early as the first trimester or the beginning of the second trimester since that’s when your first appointment usually takes place.

2. Paid time off for antenatal appointments

You’re legally entitled to paid time off for antenatal care, but as I’ve said above, you’d have to tell your employer about your pregnancy from quite early on. Still, it might be worth doing so, considering that the paid time off not only cover medical appointments; it includes antenatal or parenting classes and relaxation sessions as long as they’re recommended by your doctor or midwife. Dads-to-be don’t get this right, I’m afraid.

3. Your health and safety, and protection at work

Once your employer knows about your pregnancy, they have a legal requirement to protect your health and safety at work (if necessary, by offering suitable alternative work). If they can’t do that, they might have to give you time off on full pay, regardless of how long you’ve worked for them. You’re also protected against unfair treatment, discrimination and dismissal, and your employer can’t change your contract terms and conditions without your agreement.

4. Maternity leave

When you tell your employer about your pregnancy (and remember that it can’t be later than 15 weeks before the week your baby is due), you should also tell them when you’d like to start your maternity leave. Your employer will then have 28 days to respond. You’re entitled to 52 weeks (1 year) of maternity leave made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave, regardless of how long you’ve worked for your employer. You can usually start your leave up to the 11th week before the week your baby is due. You don’t have to take the whole 52 weeks if you don’t want to, but you must take at least 2 weeks’ leave (4 if you work in a factory) after your baby is born. If you want to change your return to work date, you must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice. Maternity leave doesn’t affect your other employment benefits (for example, pension contribution, private healthcare, etc) – you’ll get them as usual.

Read more about maternity leave on Gov.UK.

5. Statutory maternity pay

Statutory maternity pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. You’ll get 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax for the first 6 weeks and £138.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. It usually starts when you go for your maternity leave. To qualify, you must: (i) earn on average at least £111 a week; (ii) give the correct notice (that is, you must tell your employer about your pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the week your baby is due); (iii) give proof you’re pregnant (get a letter or the MATB1 certificate from your doctor or midwife); and (iv) have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.

Read more about maternity pay on Gov.UK and use the maternity entitlement calculator to check your eligibility.

6. Maternity allowance

If you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay (for example, because you don’t meet one or more of the requirements above, or if you’re self-employed, or if you’ve recently stop working), don’t worry – you might be able to get maternity allowance for 39 weeks instead. To qualify, you must (i) be either employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week your baby is due; and (ii) earning at least £30 a week over any 13-week period. It doesn’t matter if you had different jobs or periods of unemployment during the 66-week period. All you need to do is send a completed MA1 claim form together with your pay slips, MATB1 certificate, and SMP1 form (a form from your employer which basically explains why you’re not qualified to claim statutory maternity pay from them) after you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks to Jobcentre Plus.

If you’re not employed or self-employed, but you take part in the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner, you could still get maternity allowance for 14 weeks.

Read more about maternity allowance on Gov.UK and use the maternity entitlement calculator to check your eligibility.

7. Paternity leave and pay

Dads-to-be (or a pregnant woman’s same-sex partner) have the right to 1 or 2 weeks paid ordinary paternity leave and up to 26 weeks’ paid additional paternity leave (but only if the mother returns to work). To qualify for the ordinary paternity leave, you must (i) have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth; (ii) be employed by your employer up to the date of birth; (iii) earn at least £111 a week; and (iv) give the correct notice (that is, you must tell your employer about the pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the week the baby is due).

It’s a bit different if you’re applying for an additional paternity leave or if you’re adopting a child. Read more about paternity leave and pay on Gov.UK.

8. What happens when you go back to work after your maternity leave?

You’re entitled to return to your original job, but if this is not possible, your employer may arrange for a suitable alternative job. If they can’t offer you a suitable alternative job, you may be entitled to redundancy pay.

You may also be entitled to request for a flexible working arrangement.

9. Useful websites you can (and probably should) refer to:

Maternity and paternity benefits and leave on the NHS’ website, and Pregnant employees’ rights on Gov.UK.

20 weeks and here are the freebies I’ve collected so far

These are some of the freebies I’ve collected from Babies R UsBounty and Emma’s Diary as at today. There are more, but I’ve used them already before I started my blog… sorry!

Freebies For Mums-To-Be | www.angeliquelee.co.uk

To get your hands on some amazing bargains and freebies, read my posts “For those bargain and freebies hunters out there”

For those bargain and freebies hunters out there

“Nobody says having a baby is cheap, but that doesn’t mean you have to break your bank account!”

Budget Conscious Shopper | www.angeliquelee.co.uk | eyematrix/123RF

Yes, nobody says having a baby is cheap. In fact, everyone is aware of how fast it can drain your bank account. So, whenever I have the opportunity to save some money or get my hands on freebies, I’d grab it without thinking twice. Who doesn’t like a good bargain, right? Especially when time is on your side (you’ve got 9 months to plan after all!) and it doesn’t involve too much effort on your part. By spending just a tiny bit of extra time online, I’ve managed to save around £1000 (spending around £700 instead of £1700) in buying these items:

  1. Babies R Us cot that can be converted into a junior bed;
  2. Claire de Lune palm moses basket and stand;
  3. Angelcare baby monitor;
  4. Britax baby carrier;
  5. Graco Symbio 3-in-1 travel system: pram, pushchair and car seat;
  6. Angelcare nappy disposal;
  7. Babies R Us changing unit;
  8. Babies R Us changing mat;
  9. Philips Avent electric breast pump and breastfeeding starter set;
  10. Philips Avent newborn bottles starter set;
  11. Philips Avent 3-in-1 steam steriliser;
  12. Johnson & Johnson baby essentials box;
  13. 6 Pampers jumbo box nappies (with 74 nappies in each box) for newborn; and
  14. 3 sets of Babies R Us sleepsuit

And I haven’t included all the freebies I’ve gotten yet! So, for all you bargain hunters out there, I thought I’d share with you the two sites that I always check out before making any purchases (there are, of course, many more out there, like VoucherCodes, Groupon, Living Social, etc, (and I do use them quite often), but these two are my favourite and I use them all the time):

  1. Hot UK Deals (hotukdeals.com)

A user-contributed bargain hunters’ forum. There’s literally everything on that site, mainly because, when somebody spots a bargain anywhere in the UK, online or offline, they can post it on the site alerting other users on the existence of the deal. What you have to do is do a quick search on the item you want to buy or the name of the retailer you want to buy it from and if an offer exists, you can count on it that it’ll be on the site. My husband and I have discovered many deals through Hot UK Deals; our two most recent discovery (which led us to purchase the items) were (1) the Britax baby carrier (for which we paid £29.99 instead of £58.99); and (2) the 6 jumbo box Pampers nappies from Tesco (for which we paid £35 instead of £72). Don’t you just love bargain?!?!

  1. Top Cash Back (topcashback.co.uk)

Like Quidco (if you’re familiar with that site), it gives you cashback on everyday purchases from over 4000 online retailers, such as Babies R Us, Marks and Spencer, Argos, Tesco Direct, etc. All you have to do is access the retailer’s site through Top Cash Back and your visit will be recorded accordingly. Once you’ve accumulated enough cashback, you can opt to get the ‘pay-out’ in cash (in which case they’ll credit your bank account) or convert the amount into vouchers that you can use at any of the participating retailers (including Babies R Us, Amazon, etc). What I always do is convert the maximum amount I can into Tesco Clubcard points (currently, £50 per year) and use the Clubcard boost to double my Clubcard voucher value. I then convert the remaining balance on my Top Cash Back account into either cash or Babies R Us or Amazon vouchers. It’s easy money, really! Three of the biggest cashback I’ve received so far were (1) around £60 from PC World (when I bought my HP desktop computer); (2) around £60 from Car Phone Warehouse (when I signed up to EE Samsung Galaxy S5 plan); and (3) around £25 from American Express (when my husband and I signed up to the British Airways American Express card, which in itself is a great card to have but I shall talk about that another time).

Of course, when it comes to baby’s stuff, it doesn’t hurt checking out the offers from Bounty as well – I bought my Claire de Lune palm moses basket with a Bounty offer for 50% off the RRP. Most importantly, before making any purchases, you might want to compare prices from all the major retailers like Tesco, Boots, Amazon, Babies R Us, Mothercare, etc – it’s how I managed to get my hands on, for example, the Angelcare baby monitor for £19 from Tesco instead of £59.99 (Amazon and Mothercare) and £69.96 (Babies R Us).

And for all you freebies hunters out there, this site provides a list of sites that offer freebies to mums-to-be: http://www.cloudfreebies.co.uk/2013/05/baby-freebies/. So far, I’ve personally received these items:

  1. A Bounty mum-to-be pack (redeemed from Boots), which is full of very useful items for mums-to-be, mums and newborns – you don’t have to do anything; you should be given your Bounty pack and vouchers at your first antenatal appointment;
  1. A mum-to-be pack, bump-to-baby pack and new family pack (redeemed from Boots), which like the Bounty pack, are again, full of very useful items and money off coupons worth £200 from Argos – by signing up to Emma’s Diary;
  1. Vouchers worth £100 from Mothercare – by joining My Mothercare Club online;
  1. A £5 money off coupon from Sainsbury’s to be spent on the Sainsbury’s Little Ones range – by signing up to the Sainsbury’s Baby and Toddler Club online;
  1. Goodie bag and money off coupons from Babies R Us – by signing up to the Babies R Us Gold Card and Mother and Baby Club in store or on their website (I signed up online and was given the goodie bag in store when I visited them);
  1. A cuddly cow and pregnancy diary from C&G – by signing up to the C&G Mum and Baby Club on their website; and
  1. A huggable polar bear from Apta – by signing up to the Aptaclub Baby Club on their website.

I’ve also signed up to Boots Parenting Club (I believe you get a goodie bag out of it, which you should receive by post within 6 weeks of signing up – I’m still waiting) and Tesco Baby and Toddler Club (from which you’ll get a free Tesco Parents parking permit and emails about the much loved Tesco baby events).

Last but not least, don’t forget to pile up those points when you shop for more savings and freebies! Here are some of my favourite schemes:

  1. Tesco Clubcard (just because I do most of my shopping at Tesco and I love their Clubcard boost, especially since I’ve always converted my points into British Airways Avios – you get 600 Avios for every £2.50 worth of Tesco voucher, which I think is really good);
  1. Boots Parenting Club – you’ll receive 10 points for every £1 spent on baby products when using your Boots Advantage Card (accumulate enough points and you can pay with your points instead of cash when you shop at Boots);
  1. Babies R Us Gold Card – I just signed up to this and so can’t really comment on its usefulness (except that I love the freebies they gave); and
  1. Amazon Family – you get 20% off nappies subscription and a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime, which entitle you to a free one-day delivery on purchases made on Amazon UK (personally though, I’m not quite sure about this since I don’t have to buy nappies yet and you might be able to stock up on nappies for cheaper from other retailers when they’re running a promotion; Amazon Prime itself is not cheap and I always have problem with the delivery mainly because I’m working and never at home – I prefer to use their free first class delivery with Royal Mail to be honest; at least, I can always pick up my item from my local Royal Mail branch instead of having to contact Amazon and re-arrange another delivery. But, my husband is a Prime member (because we use the movie-streaming service), so we thought, why not?)

I hope you find this post helpful!

Disclosure: this is a non-sponsored post – I was not financially compensated in anyway by any of the retailers whose names appear on this post, save for Top Cash Back from which I earn a small referral fee should you decide to set up an account with the link that I’ve provided.