Maternity Allowance is granted to pregnant women who are not entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Leave from their place of work, or if a new mother is recently unemployed. The amount of Maternity Allowance you are entitled to of course depends on how much you are eligible for and you tend to be eligible if your current employment does not offer any sort of maternity pay or you are newly unemployed. You are also entitled if you are self-employed. However, new mum’s and young families have been speaking out about the payments, which are paid for 39 weeks are not enough, and new parents are left struggling financially. figures have shown that the UK lag significantly behind other European countries when it comes to supporting new mum’s out of work financially, with the payment for nine months out of work coming in at £16, 758 which is just 61% of the average salary of the UK worker, and definitely not enough for what is needed.
Money saving website Voucher Box has released figures that shame the UK into 8th place in Europe, with France, Denmark, Finland, Austria and Germany all above them. Many mum’s have spoken out about UK mum’s needed more support financially after they’ve birth. Norway has been revealed as the best place to take maternity leave, with the country offering up £52, 780 in child related benefits or will give the equivalent of 15 months pay in maternity allowance. Sweden is a close second, with government generosity meaning new parents can claim up to £37, 000 to keep them afloat. UK figures are extremely disappointing in comparison to other countries and the case of one new mum from Manchester is just an example of the effects of such a little amount of money can have. Only having given birth seven weeks ago and planning to take 12 months maternity leave, new mum Deborah Wibberley is fearing her leave will have to be halved and she will have to return to work after six months, due to financial difficulties meaning that she is struggling to pay bills and rent. Some Mum’s in the UK are only entitled to as little as £103.50 per week, forcing them to return to work without spending a significant amount of time with their new son or daughter. So why are the payments so low?
The first 26 weeks of a woman’s maternity leave is mandatory and means they are entitled to the same rights as they would have at work, eg. still get holidays etc, but anything after that is additional leave. There are no laws to say that a woman is entitled to full pay whilst on maternity leave, which means the payments can often be low and unsuitable. In Northern Ireland, improvements are beginning to be made, for ‘parental’ leave, meaning both parents can take time off work when their child is born, and both have shared pay. Obviously, many businesses are yet to enter into the scheme, but if your place of work does coincide with the new laws then both parents will be able to utilise shared parental pay and shared parental leave, which counts for both maternity leave and adoption. A mother on maternity leave can now choose to opt into a shorter maternity leave and have the rest of her time as parental leave, meaning her and her partner are entitled to shared pay. This means both parents get time off and can spend all important time with their new baby. As this becomes more and more popular, the landscape for employers is going to be altered forever. Will the UK jump on the bandwagon and make maternity leave that little bit easier?