UK in the relegation zone for decently-paid maternity leave in Europe, warns TUC

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UPDATE: Please note that the figures for Slovakia are now out of date. They no longer appear at the bottom of the table.

New mums in UK receive just  6 weeks of decently-paid maternity leave
- Only mothers in Ireland and Slovakia have worse decently-paid entitlement
- Croatia tops table with 6 months’ decently-paid leave

UK mums get one of the lowest amounts of decently-paid maternity leave in Europe, according to new TUC analysis published today (Friday) ahead of Mother’s Day on Sunday (26 March).

The UK ranks 22 out of 24 amongst European countries that offer statutory maternity leave. While mums in the UK only get six weeks’ decently-paid maternity leave, most European countries offer three months or more:

  • 6 months: Croatia
  • More than 4 months: Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic
  • More than 3 months: Estonia, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Malta and Switzerland.

The only European countries offering less decently-paid maternity leave than the UK are Ireland and Slovakia, where mums do not get any decently-paid time off.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The UK is in the relegation zone when it comes to decently-paid maternity leave.

“Many Europeans countries offer decent support to new mums. But lots of parents here are forced back to work early to pay the bills.

“My advice to all new mums is to join a union. It is the best way to improve your pay and conditions.”

Director of Maternity Action Ros Bragg said: “Without adequate maternity pay, women’s choices are limited and many cannot afford to take their leave entitlements. We should be investing in support for pregnant women and new families.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:
- The TUC wants the government to:

1. Increase statutory maternity pay (SMP) and Maternity Allowance to the same level as the minimum wage so mums aren’t forced to go back to work before they’re ready.
2. Increase shared parental pay and paternity pay to the same level as the minimum wage. The TUC believes lack of money shouldn’t be the main factor in making decisions about who looks after a new baby. If maternity pay goes up without paternity pay going up too, it will never make economic sense for dads to stay at home to share childcare.
3. Help self-employed mums by paying maternity allowance at an equivalent rate for first 6 weeks as earning-related rates for SMP.
4. Make shared parental leave (SPL) more flexible. The TUC has consistently called for SPL to be available as smaller chunks of leaves to allow parents to phase their return to work. For parents who can’t afford to take the full leave entitlement, this would at least smooth the return to work and allow for a period of part time working.
- European league table of decently-paid maternity leave
Decently-paid leave is time off paid at two-thirds of women’s pre-maternity leave earnings or more, or a rate of pay greater than £840 (€1000) per month. While the UK has a relatively generous period of maternity leave compared to other countries, the leave isn’t decently-paid for long.

Ranking

Country

Maximum length of decently-paid postnatal maternity leave in months

1

Croatia

6

2

Hungary

5.6

3

Czech Republic

5.1

4

Poland

4.6

5=

Estonia

3.7

Italy

3.7

Spain

3.7

8=

Belgium

3.3

Denmark

3.3

France

3.3

Malta

3.3

Switzerland

3.3

13

Greece

3 (public sector) 2.1 (private sector)

14

Finland

2.9

15

The Netherlands

2.8

16

Slovenia

2.6

17

Romania

2.1

18=

Austria

1.9

Germany

1.9

Lithuania

1.9

Luxembourg

1.9

22

UK

1.4

23

Ireland

0

24

Slovakia

0

NB: Iceland, Norway, Portugal and Sweden are not included as their laws do not distinguish between maternity leave and general parental leave that can be used by either parent.
Source: www.leavenetwork.org/fileadmin/Leavenetwork/overviews_2016/Statutory_Maternity_Leave.pdf
- Most employed mothers are entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave and 39 weeks’ SMP or Maternity Allowance.
- SMP for eligible women is usually paid as follows: the first 6 weeks (1.4 months): 90% of their average weekly earnings (AWE) before tax; the remaining 33 weeks: £139.58 or 90% of their AWE (whichever is lower).
- However, women who earn under £112 a week are not eligible for SMP but may instead by eligible for Maternity Allowance. There are currently 1.4 million women employees earning less than this amount (Source: Labour Force Survey, 2016 Q4).
- Since April 2015 mothers have been able to convert some of their maternity leave and pay into Shared Parental Leave (SPL) which they or their partner can take on a more flexible basis in the first year of their child’s life. However SPL is unpaid and take-up so far has been very low, with just 1% of new dads requesting to use it in its first year: www.myfamilycare.co.uk/news/update/shared-parental-leave-where-are-we-now.html
- All TUC press releases can be found at tuc.org.uk/media
- TUC Press Office on Twitter: @tucnews

Contacts:
Press Office  T: 020 7467 1248  E: [email protected]
Alex Rossiter  T: 020 7467 1285  M: 07887 572130  E: [email protected]
Elly Gibson (Mon to Thurs) T: 020 7467 1337  M: 07900 910624  E: [email protected]
Michael Pidgeon  T: 020 7467 1372  M: 07717 531150  E: [email protected]
 

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