While the UK ranks well for paid maternity leave when compared to other countries, there is a distinction between paid and week paid, and when it is compared to countries providing well-paid maternity leave it slips down the scale.
According to the International Network on Leave Policies and Research, receiving 66% or more of your salary while on maternity leave is considered ‘well-paid’. Using this benchmark, the UK finds itself slipping down the charts, as shown below.
In the chart above, only Sweden, South Africa, Canada, Australia and the UK drop down the table when you consider well-paid leave as opposed to just paid leave.
It’s unsurprising then that, according to a study by USwitch, 28% of new mothers in Britain end up in debt.
The following calendar paints a clearer picture of maternity leave in the UK, by distinguishing between the duration of paid, well-paid and unpaid entitlement.
Many new mums are in for a big shock when their finances are cut back to the bare bone after the first six weeks of full pay (or a little longer if their employer is generous). Here are some tips to make sure you don’t even up on the poverty line after your new baby arrives:
Fail to plan and you’ll feel the pinch
We all know the cost of childcare is high – that’s been well publicised enough. However, the cost of having those crucial first few weeks or months with a new baby is often not realised until the baby comes.
It’s, therefore, very important to plan your spending. Buy all the expensive items like pushchairs, cots and car seats before the baby, as you’ll have a lot more accessible funds then.
Start paying off debts before the new baby
If you know that you have a loan or any other debts that are small enough to pay off, do so. Even if it saves you paying £30 a month towards the balance every month, that’s money you can use when the baby comes along.
Save, save, save!
Something always crops up that needs paying…having a new baby around won’t change that! So it’s important to save towards your emergency fund so that you have something to dip into in times of real need.
Be realistic about how long you will be on maternity leave
If you’ve put pen to paper and really planned your maternity leave finances, you’ll know whether you can survive on £500 or not.
While we all love our children and want to nurture them full time for as long as we want to do so, going into debt may not give them the best start in life – you’ll be stressed and depressed, and may not even be able to afford the nutrients your body needs to keep you going so you can look after the baby. If this means cutting your maternity leave from two years to one year, then do it! There are nurseries that take children from six weeks old, so don’t feel there is no option but to live in debt.