A Greater Manchester mother-of-four has welcomed a TUC campaign to highlight poor maternity pay.
The TUC has ranked UK statutory maternity pay among the worst in Europe after it came twenty second out of twenty four countries.
Only Ireland and Slovakia have worse “decently paid” entitlements. Decently paid is defined as two-thirds of a woman’s salary or more than £840 a month.
In the UK, mothers are only entitled to six weeks decently paid maternity leave before it is reduced.
Mother-of-four, Victoria Clark-Leece, 35, from Greater Manchester, who is currently on maternity leave, said: “I had to begin my maternity leave much earlier than I had intended to. I suffered pelvic girdle pain and couldn’t carry on. I received three months full pay from my employer and the remaining thirty nine weeks are at statutory mat pay which is £139 per week.
“I know, I may have to return to work early if I cannot afford to pay bills and feed/clothe us all. However, I am trying my hardest to stay at home for as long as possible because the benefits of me caring for the baby and spending time with the family, far out way money.
‘I am shocked that as a first world country, that can afford to support families the employers/government, choose not to. I believe helping young families should be a priority. It’s not healthy for parents to miss out on bringing up their children’.
Victoria said: ‘All the current policies are about providing childcare, to get Mothers back to work as soon as possible, very little value is placed on parents staying home and caring for their child/ren.’
The TUC argues that statutory maternity pay should be at least as much as the minimum wage so mothers do not have to return to work prematurely.
“The UK is in the relegation zone when it comes to decently paid maternity leave,” said Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC.
“Many European countries offer decent support to new mums, but lots of parents here are forced back to work early to pay the bills.”
The analysis is based on research by the Leave Network, an international group that analyses and researches leave policies.
What are your rights?
Most employed mothers are entitled to fifty two weeks’ maternity leave
Statutory maternity pay for eligible women is usually paid at ninety percent of their weekly wage for the first six weeks, with the remaining thirty three weeks at one hundred and thirty nine pound fifty eight pence a week or ninety percent of their weekly wage, whichever is lower.
Women who earn less than one hundred and twelve pound a week are not eligible for statutory maternity pay; instead most can claim maternity allowance.
While some companies have more generous schemes, Ros Bragg, from the campaign group Maternity Action, said the “vast majority” of women in the UK received statutory maternity pay. Employers then claim this back from the government.
The TUC also thinks shared parental leave should be more flexible – so parents can take their leave in smaller chunks, rather than all at once.