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Why women deserve better maternity pay

Why women deserve better maternity pay

There wasn’t a moment during my daughter’s first few months when I thought, “I should really be at work.” Because I WAS working. Taking care of a newborn, especially as a first-time parent, is the most challenging work there is. I treated it like my job – and I got paid for it like a job.

I work in the public sector, and while government work has its fair share of bureaucratic frustrations, the benefits are pretty good. Really good, in fact. For the first 22 weeks of my maternity leave, I received my full salary. I could then take another 17 weeks of leave with Statutory Maternity Pay (£140.98 per week), and another 13 weeks unpaid.

I was lucky to be paid so well during those first few months, and lucky that I was allowed to take a full year off and still return to my role. I was also lucky that I was able to afford those unpaid and underpaid months, thanks to a partner who worked full time and my own meager savings.

Lots of British women aren’t so lucky. Many employers offer only what they’re legally required to provide, which is six weeks at 90% pay, and another 33 weeks at £140.98 per week, or 90% of the woman’s average weekly wage, whichever is lower.

According to a recent article in the Guardian, this means that Britain trails most of Europe when it comes to maternity pay. Only Ireland and Slovakia offer a worse deal.

And you know who offers a deal that’s even more crap than Ireland and Slovakia? My home country, America. Actually, it offers no deal. It’s one of three countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee mothers any paid maternity leave, and yet Republicans are obsessed with forcing women to have lots of babies.

“So, you want to restrict my access to birth control and abortions?”

“You should have all the babies. Babies are blessings! More babies, please.”

“Any chance you might want to throw a little money my way to help me pay for all these blessings?”

“Lady, you need to start taking some personal responsibility for your choices.”

For everyone woman who is forced to stay home with her kids because she can’t afford childcare fees, there’s a woman who’s forced back into work too early because she can’t afford to stay home. It all comes back to one simple fact – we need to support working mums better.

Because let’s face it – you need us. You need our skills, experience and knowledge in the workplace, but you also need us to raise the little people that will shape the future of our world. A little help at the start of that people-raising, when we need it the most, could go a long way.

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34 thoughts on “Why women deserve better maternity pay”

  • Yep, I’m facing a year on SMP. I’ve been living on half wages for the last 4 months to try and save enough money so I can take the full year off. I don’t know how we would afford kids if we lived in the US.

  • I felt very lucky to have full salary for 14 months plus I took 6 weeks holiday at the start and also came back to work 3 days for 2 months to settle back in before going 5 days a week. Others have it so tough, it’s wrong. X

  • I totally agree with you and I didn’t know that about America, how terrible that women get no maternity pay at all. It makes me sad thinking of all the mums who are forced back in to work for financial reasons way before themselves or their babies are actually ready. Change is definitely needed, I am not sure how and when it will actually happen though. Thank you for linking up to #BlogCrush xx

    • Some employers in America may offer maternity pay, but they’re not legally required to. Many of my friends felt lucky to get three months UNPAID leave.

  • I find it so shocking that America doesn’t have any legal requirement for maternity pay. Absolutely crazy that such a wealthy country doesn’t guarantee that kind of security for working mothers.
    I know statutory maternity pay in the U.K. isn’t great but it’s obviously better than nothing. I earn significantly less than B so luckily it didn’t impact on our joint income too much.
    I feel like it’s so simple though, like you say… our skills and knowledge are assets, they should be trying to keep us in the workforce.

    • I know – the lack of any government-mandated paid leave is shocking. SMP is better than nothing, but still not enough to live off of. And yes, they should definitely want to keep us in the workforce!

  • Totally agree. I was lucky I fell pregnant with Poppy just before being tuped to another company and ny existing maternity policy was carried across which was pretty good. My new employer just provides SMP which is pretty poor. Thanks for joining us for #marvmondays x

    • It’s great that you were able to keep your old employer’s maternity policy – SMP on its own isn’t great.

  • I am so jealous of how much you get for maternity!!! In Canada, I get 55% of my average earnings for one year (and 3 months beforehand if you cannot continue to work due to the pregnancy). 55% is crap! But you won’t find me complaining to anyone in America because yup, they’ve got it worse. I don’t blame it on politics though. America just doesn’t have its priorities straight, no matter which party is majority.

    • I know – it’s shocking that some of the richest companies offer the worst (or no) support to new mothers.

  • I’m so worried about money once Bean arrives. I’m self employed in the U.K. so I don’t get anything. Nothing. Wondering if I’ll be able to do some of my original workload in between caring for baby? Scared. #dreamteam

    • That must be hard to be self employed and have to worry about money when you’re expecting a newborn. Good luck!

  • Yes! Totally agree with this! I only had statutory pay, and so I only took 9 months off. This also meant that I changed jobs at the end of my maternity leave, for something that worked better for me in terms flexible working, which I suppose is a good thing, but for my previous employer, just offering statutory pay meant that I didn’t feel any loyalty to go back, which as you’ve rightly pointed out isn’t great for the future of the workforce. I can’t believe that there’s nothing at all in America! Great point that needs raising. Thanks so much for linking this up with #DreamTeam.

  • I always moaned about mat pay being shocking and only being entitled to the statutory pay. When you compare it to the US though I really shouldn’t. I am always surprised by the state care/finances system in the US. You make an excellent point though, it is very contradictory when it comes to children and welfare. I am not sure I can see it changing any time soon though. #marvmondays

  • Yes please! I’m currently on maternity leave and only on SMP which is no fun. I’m determined to take the year off, but it’ll be a struggle. An improvement would be very welcome (although I’m thankful I’m not in America!!) #Marvmondays

  • I totally agree with this, mums really do need to be supported better, especially in the first few years after having a baby. We really could do with learning from the Scandinavian countries. #DreamTeam

  • Here in the states, it varies all over, by the company. I was so lucky that when we first had Big (the Mrs., she carried both girls), I got a month off of maternity leave, full pay, full insurance. That was beautiful! That was also almost 10 years ago. Today, that may be unheard of — or even illegal! Ugh #BlogCrush

  • I am in the public sector too, and like you taken a year maternity. I feel so fortunate but at the same time it still feels so rigid. We need better maternity and paternity rights! Go you #blogcrush

  • I’m taking a year off and almost 7 months in, it’s a struggle. We’re going to have to be so careful when the SMP stops and I get nothing for the last 3 months. It’s heartbreaking, better support really is needed. #BlogCrush

  • Wow I can’t believe that there is no legal obligation in the US, and I didn’t realise the UK was lagging so far behind the rest of Europe either! Having time with your baby is so important (for the parents and for the child). Congrats on being the featured post on #blogcrush this week!

  • Totally agree, the coverage in the UK is inadequate (although US is terrible). I’d extend this to dads too though. If parental leave can be split between two parents and the income has to drop so much after a few months, then it’s nearly always the mum, often on lower income, who takes the full year as the couple can’t afford to give dad his turn at looking after the baby. Dads can have a viral role on bringing up their babies but it won’t happen on a big scale until we fix parental pay.

  • Whilst I knew America was really bad for maternity pay, I didn’t realise how bad the UK was too. I only worked part time when I went on maternity pay so for me I didn’t really lose so much being on minimum wage but I always wondered how people coped who earned a lot more a week than SMP. It’s like you are being punished for having a baby #blogcrush

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