The Daily Telegraph

Soaring bills force mothers to curtail maternity leave


THOUSANDS of mothers have cut short their maternity leave to pay soaring bills, with some returning to work one month after giving birth.

Families with young children are struggling to afford rapidly rising housing, energy and food costs after inflation surpassed 10 per cent in July.

Almost half of new mothers, or women who are at least 20 weeks pregnant, have been, or will soon be, forced to reduce their maternity leave because of the cost of living crisis, said Pregnant Then Screwed, a campaign group.

All pregnant employees have a right to 52 weeks’ maternity leave and those who qualify for statutory maternity pay receive it for the first 39 weeks.

The remainder is unpaid unless topped up by an employer.

A growing number of firms offer maternity pay above the legal standard, but employees who receive only the statutory minimum have found it falls short of covering rising household bills.

Mothers on statutory maternity pay receive 90 per cent of their average weekly earnings for the first six weeks and for the remaining 33 weeks get £156.66 a week or 90 per cent of their earnings, whichever is lower.

More than 2,415 women this month told Pregnant Then Screwed they either had or intended to return to work early due to the cost of living crisis.

A third intended to take seven months or less maternity leave.

Joeli Brearley, of the campaign group, said there were cases of women returning to work a month after giving birth because they could not afford to stay off any longer.

She said: “Even with energy costs temporaril­y capped this week, people will still really struggle and are fearful of how they will survive or stay out of

‘Even with energy costs temporaril­y capped, people are fearful of how they will stay out of debt this year’

debt this year. Single parents in particular are in a real mess and those who are self-employed [as] their maternity allowance is often less than the statutory.”

Those who do return to work must contend with soaring childcare costs.

One mother, who did not want to be named, said: “Care is already costing us a fortune.

“I work with a lady who can’t have children because she can’t afford the cost of childcare.”

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