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Paid Maternity Leave in Britain is Lamentable

Rebecca Ellerbeck

Rebecca Ellerbeck, Senior Solicitor in our Employment Law team, explains maternity leave in the UK.

Britain is near the bottom of the European league for paid maternity leave, according to research by the Trade Union Congress (“TUC”) published a few weeks ago.

The UK offers up to 52 weeks of maternity leave. However, it only offers up to 39 weeks of Statutory Maternity Pay (“SMP”). For the first six weeks after the birth, women in the UK get 90% of their previous pay, but that drops to £139.58 a week (or continues at 90% if that is lower) for the next 33 weeks. Tax and national insurance are deducted. If women are not eligible for SMP, they may be eligible for Maternity Allowance, which is paid by the government for up to 39 weeks.  From 2 April 2017, the standard rates of SMP rose from £139.58 to £140.98 per week (or 90% of the person’s average weekly earnings if lower) in accordance with the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2017 SI 2017/260. 

However, the UK trails far behind other European countries in offering “decently paid” maternity pay (the TUC defined “decently paid” as two-thirds of a woman’s salary or more than £840 a month). The UK ranks 22 out of 24 amongst European countries that offer statutory maternity leave, only Ireland and Slovakia have a worse deal than the UK, the TUC finds. Mums in the UK only get six weeks’ decently-paid maternity leave, whereas most European countries offer three months or more: Croatia offers 6 months; Poland Hungary and the Czech Republic offer more than 4 months; and Estonia, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Malta and Switzerland offer more than 3 months.

Of course, employers can (but often don’t) offer more generous pay than those required by law.

For more information, please contact Rebecca Ellerbeck or a member of our Employment Law team.

This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.