Should You Offer Your Employees a Better Maternity Pay & Leave Policy?

mom and baby

Your organization undoubtedly already has a maternity leave policy in place but have you ever wondered how it compares to other companies in your industry? Indeed have you ever wondered how maternity leave differs around the globe?

Once you can zoom out and see the bigger picture you might even find that you want to alter your own policy by increasing the amount of days and/or pay you offer new moms in your company.

We all know why maternity leave is important. For a new mother having some time off work to recover from the rigors of childbirth and to bond with their new child is crucial.

Not only that but time away from work means there is less distraction allowing mom to really focus on what is most important right there and then: their newborn baby.

But it isn’t just important generous or 'the done thing' to offer maternity leave and support to your employees - it’s a legal requirement.

Should you be offering your employees a better maternity pay and leave policy?

First of all let’s take a look at what employers in the United Kingdom are required by the UK government to offer new mothers.

Statutory Maternity Leave is currently 52 weeks. That’s broken down into two different types of leave: Ordinary Maternity Leave which covers the first 26 weeks and then Additional Maternity Leave which covers the last 26 weeks.

If an employee doesn’t want to take the full 52 weeks they are under no obligation to however in the majority of workplaces (offices shops etc.) they must take two weeks of leave when the baby is born which rises to four weeks of leave if they work in a factory.

So that all sounds pretty generous does it not? But bear in mind that Statutory Maternity Pay is only paid for up to 39 weeks and this is currently broken down into:

  • 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
  • £151.20 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

Note that as an employer you will be paying Statutory Maternity Pay in the same way that you pay your employees wages - i.e. weekly or monthly - and that tax and National Insurance will also be deducted.

However this arrangement may see many new moms - in particular single moms or parents with only one income - facing financial difficulties. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to figure out that less salary plus a new baby is not a balanced equation and can result in moms returning to work before they feel ready.

And that in turn has the potential knock on effect of leaving you with an employee who is struggling with childcare difficulties overwhelming tiredness mental health issues and possible resentment towards you as the employer.

So could offering a more robust maternity leave and pay package help you attract top talent and retain your current employees?

What do other countries offer in terms of maternity leave?

We’ve already taken a look at what other nations offer their employees in terms of annual leave and now as a benchmark let’s have a look at what some other countries offer their employees when it comes to maternity allowance.

  • Estonia: 140 days of paid pregnancy and maternity leave
  • Sweden: 480 days of leave with 390 of them paid at 80%
  • France: 16 weeks of paid maternity leave
  • Japan: 6 weeks prior to giving birth and 8 weeks after giving birth
  • Norway: 49 weeks at full pay or 59 weeks at 80% pay

It would appear at first glance that the UK’s Statutory Maternity Leave isn’t too bad. However consider a June 2019 report by UNICEF which clearly stated that the United Kingdom (and Ireland) were classed as ‘family-unfriendly’ - particularly when compared to other European countries with regards to maternity and paternity leave.

Read more: Is It Time to Rethink Your Paternity Leave Policy?

In fact UNICEF found that our 39 weeks of allowance and Statutory Maternity Pay are actually only equivalent to 12 weeks of fully paid leave. That’s less than all of the countries listed above and less than the vast majority of the rest of Europe.

Although on the plus side at least the UK and Ireland offer new parents more than the USA in which companies as with annual leave are not obliged by law to offer any paid time off. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does stipulate that companies must offer their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Could you - should you - be offering more support for new mothers?

So if the United Kingdom’s statutory maternity pay and leave are less than stellar when viewed on a world stage could your organization be doing more for new moms (and dads)?

Employees don’t just join companies for the pay packet. Obviously being remunerated for work done is an essential part of the whole employer-employee relationship but increasingly people want benefits and perks too.

Offering additional plusses such as duvet days free snacks and drinks subsidized gym memberships and allowing people to carry over their outstanding annual vacation allowance into the following year will make your existing staff feel valued and encourage candidates to apply for your vacancies.

Eve Jones

Eve Jones

I'm a UK-based content writer here at Hezum. I've an interest in all things HR and company culture.

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