DATE: 14th November 2023; New research from Pregnant Then Screwed has uncovered that the majority of mothers who are cutting their maternity leave short are doing so due to financial hardship, with just 1 in 4 mothers able to take their full maternity leave entitlement.
The research from a sample of over 5,165 mothers who are at least 20 weeks pregnant or have a child under 12 months has looked at the impact of low parental pay on new families, with 1 in 10 needing to return to work as early as 4 months or less because they cannot afford to stay off any longer.
Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed, comments, “We have some of the lowest rates of parental leave pay in the world. National minimum wage is the legal minimum a person should be paid, yet new mothers are meant to survive on less than half of this amount for 33 weeks, whilst their outgoings remain the same. And, of course, the cost of living crisis is exacerbating this issue.
The perinatal period is critically important to the health and well-being of a mother and her child, and I think we should all be deeply concerned that due to severe hardship, we are now seeing a degeneration and a degradation of this vital period.
Simultaneously, and I would argue not unrelated, NHS data from August 2022 – March 2023 showed an 8% increase in new mothers accessing support for mental health services on the NHS. We have also seen an increase in infant mortality in the UK. Poverty has a significant impact on the risk of stillbirth and death during infancy. Ultimately, It is a false economy to not pay parental leave at a rate at which families can survive and thrive.‘’
Currently, statutory maternity leave in the UK is paid for up to 39 weeks. Mothers receive 90% of average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks. £172.48 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks – this is less than half of the national living wage.
Having to return to work earlier than planned is something that Hannah knows only too well. She shares her experience, “I went back to work just over 3 months post-partum. I was forced out of work by my previous employer whilst pregnant. There was absolutely no way I could manage to survive on statutory maternity pay, and with no family close by to move in with, there was no other alternative. Then comes the childcare fees – it’s a joke. My little one is now 6, and I’m still paying off the debt I got into for simply trying to survive back then.”
Sarah* who is self-employed had to return to work after just 2 weeks explains the struggles that she had juggling a new born whilst trying to work as a result. “I returned to work after just two weeks of maternity leave as maternity allowance for the self employed is so poor. I took my 4 week old baby to a new pitch meeting with all men, they asked me if she’d stop crying. I had another meeting where they told me not to tell the client I’d just had a baby and I had to pump my milk in the loo.”
For all media enquiries please contact:
Contact: [email protected]
Tel: 07756 525 004
About this research:
The survey was completed online between 18 August and 3rd September; from a sample of 5165 mothers who are at least 20 weeks pregnant or have a child under 12 months.