Maternity pay denied?

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I’ve just received a message that I “do not meet the criteria” to qualify for maternity pay as an AE. Here’s my situation:

I’ve been living in France and paying taxes on all my income here since early 2019. My husband and I started and AE for gites (which has not earned any money yet bc we are still renovating) in early 2019. I am listed as a co-collaborator in this business. I also have a business in the UK, from which I have been furloughed almost all of Covid.

In late 2020, I started a second AE. I applied to the wrong place at first, and then there was a long delay due to Covid, so my official business start date is 1st March 2021. I was not allowed to back date the start of the business. However, I can show that I was earning money in this business from November 2020 via bank records and emails to my accountant, even though the official start date is in March.

I’m pregnant and due with my 2nd child very soon. I’ve been back and forth via messages for months and basically getting the run around with no one actually answering my questions, but now someone has written back to say I do not qualify for any maternity pay because I do not have 10 months activity prior to the due date. I’m due on the 25th of November, so I am basically one month short according to them. I’ve written a letter to appeal the decision and included all of these details and documents, which I will send off today. My maternity leave should be starting tomorrow though, so I’m in a bit of a bind as what to do now.

I have plenty of work coming in, but now I don’t know if I should turn it down or take it? I don’t know what my odds are for this decision to be reversed (or how long I’ll have to wait to find out), and if it is, I don’t want to get in trouble for working when I’m meant to be off.  But on the other hand, if they aren’t going to give me any money, I need to be taking the work while I still can.

Any advice appreciated. I don’t know what is likely to happen or how long it will take to find out. Maybe this is technically not allowed, but perhaps I can keep taking some work and invoice for it after maternity leave period ends if they do decide I qualify?

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