Millions of working women will not be able to take a year’s paid maternity leave under the government’s new proposals because they cannot survive on a flat, low-rate payment of £106 a week, lobby groups have warned.
Although business groups have warned that the proposals – extending paid leave to nine months and raising maternity pay to £1,400 – will “cripple” business, the Maternity Alliance said the package would make little real difference to the lives of many women.
Under the proposals, only the first six weeks of leave will have to be paid at 90% of full pay by employers, and the Alliance fears that the £106 paid thereafter by the government will not be enough.
It said that when a baby was born, most dual income households could not cope on a single income for long.
A spokesman for the Alliance told the Daily Telegraph: “The proposals will not make an awful lot of difference to people.”
Justine Roberts, co-founded of mumsnet.com, a parenting website, added: “A year’s maternity leave is all very well in theory but in practice in can be very difficult to take a year out, both financially and because a lot of people are under pressure to return to work.”
But, the government was making all the right noises, Roberts said. “We want to get to the stage where companies really embrace maternity leave, rather than see it as a pain.”