We asked women how they have coped financially after having a baby, following a call by a trade union body for “decently paid” maternity leave.
The TUC said statutory maternity pay for UK mothers was among the worst in Europe.
Here’s what you had to say.
‘The cost of living is too high’
Priya Virdi, Datchet
I work in London and live in Datchet, Berkshire. I work in telecommunications and earn an average London wage. I’m currently on maternity leave wondering if I’ll get a chance to see my baby reach and enjoy solid foods because £539 isn’t enough to survive on, especially if you work in London. The cost of living is too high!!
‘I have taken a £1,000 a month pay cut’
I am on maternity leave now and I have taken a £1,000 a month pay cut. It’s impossible to make ends meet when I have more outgoings and considerably less incomings. My partner and I could not afford electricity and had to go two days without it (we are on a pre-pay meter) and he is having to work overtime, resulting in me being overtired and stressed.
We also don’t qualify for tax credits as we “earn too much”. It’s absolutely appalling. Even when I do go back to work, childcare is so expensive – it’s going to cost £940 a month. I don’t know how I am going to cope.
‘We should not be seen as the most backward country on this’
Caroline Poisson, London
I work for a sourcing and procurement firm in the City and am currently on maternity leave, with only statutory pay. I am fortunate enough to have some savings which I am using in order to make ends meet for a few extra months, but I will not have anything left for any incidents, or holidays, let alone another child.
The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively until the age of six months. This is impossible on the current statutory maternity pay, as most people have to go back to work after six weeks or very little more in order to pay bills.
We are told that the UK is generous with regards to this, but it is generous with time off, not with supporting the families of very young children. I know that we are leaving the EU, but the UK should not be seen as the most backward country in this regard.
‘Lucky my company is generous’
Danielle Atkins, Cumbria
I am currently on maternity leave and I am lucky that my company offers a generous six months full pay. However, once this six months is over the statutory pay isn’t sufficient.
‘Fighting the wrong battle’
I work in HR in the professional services industry, and went back to work before six months, partly due to finance and largely not wanting to be out of “the system” too long. It is very little money to live on compared to what you might be used to, but I would often say to employees who questioned the amount of money and who requested company pay, you are fighting the wrong battle.
I would much rather have a fairer system when returning from maternity leave than receiving higher maternity pay when you may need to leave at the end if the flexibility or hours cannot be provided. Pay in the maternity leave period is irrelevant if you haven’t got a job afterwards.
As intelligent women, we need to focus on demonstrating that a company will reduce their skillset by women leaving after having babies through not having appropriate choices. Maternity pay is a minor consideration when reflecting on a lesser career for the rest of your working life as a result of not having flexibility etc. when returning from maternity leave. We should start with this and then work on better pay.
‘I feel guilty putting my child into a nursery’
Jenny Moraes, London
I live in London, have a mortgage and a personal loan for home improvement. Having two full-time incomes is essential for us as a family. As much as I want to use the full year of maternity leave, financially I cannot afford it and I am having to go back to work after eight months (as I am exhausting my annual leave entitlement of 30 days, I am getting an additional two months). I feel guilty putting my child into a nursery but I feel like I have no other option.