UK ranks among lowest in Europe for Statutory Maternity Pay

Only mothers in Ireland and Slovakia receive less.

British working mums receive one of the lowest levels of “decently paid” maternity leave in Europe, according to new research by the TUC.

The UK ranks 22nd out of 24 European countries that offer statutory maternity leave, with only mothers in Ireland and Slovakia receiving less. In fact, women in these countries receive no “decently paid” leave at all. The trade union body defines “decently paid” as two thirds of a woman’s salary or more than £840 per month.

Female employees in the UK receive the equivalent of 90% of their salary for the first six weeks after their child’s birth. The figure then falls to £140 per week, or 90% of their wage if the latter is lower, for the next 33 weeks, and have tax and national insurance deducted. They receive no statutory pay at all after 39 weeks.

But most European countries are much more generous. Croatia provides six months’ of decently paid leave, while Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic offer more than four months’.

The TUC’s general secretary Frances O’Grady called on the government to increase statutory maternity pay and other maternity allowances to the same level as the minimum wage.

“The UK is in the relegation zone when it comes to decently paid maternity leave,” she said. “Many European countries offer decent support to new mums, but lots of parents here are forced back to work early to pay the bills.”

Ross Bragg, a director at charity Maternity Action, agreed. “The UK stands out as having a relatively long period of maternity leave but a relatively low amount of pay….it drops off very quickly. And the beginning of the maternity leave is exactly when it is most useful.”

But the Department for Work and Pensions attested: “The truth is the UK’s maternity system is one of the most generous in the world, and most mothers can take up to 39 weeks of guaranteed pay. This is nearly three times the EU minimum requirement of 14 weeks.”