14 January 2014
A parental charity has appealed to Prime Minister David Cameron and his Deputy Nick Clegg to exclude maternity pay from their proposed cap on welfare.
The Guardian reported that the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) has sent a letter to the leaders to raise its concerns that any cut in maternity pay could put new families under increased pressure, leading to a higher rate of relationship problems between parents and a greater risk of postnatal depression.
In last month’s Autumn Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said that total government welfare spending would be capped in the next two years – with the official limit due to be set this Spring – which will result in cuts in some benefits if rises are seen in others. Overall, Osborne predicted another £12 billion would be removed from the welfare bill after the 2015 election. Maternity pay is not excluded from this cap, leaving it vulnerable to decreases should the welfare bill increase in other areas.
Mothers currently only receive £136.78 per week for the majority of their time on maternity leave – lower than take-home pay on the minimum wage – and even though the government has promised better paternity rights for fathers, its new shared parental leave plan only allows fathers the right to share the mothers’ entitlements on the same meagre income.
The Coalition itself noted in the impact assessment for shared parental leave that take-up of the new rights are expected to be extremely minimal, owing to the fact that most UK workers cannot afford to take the time off.
In her letter to Cameron and Clegg, the Guardian quoted Chief Executive of the NCT Belinda Phipps as saying: “The struggle to make ends meet may put strain on a couple’s relationship and force parents back to work earlier than they planned.
“Financial anxieties can increase the risk of postnatal depression for either parent, and relationship breakdown. Both lead to poorer physical and mental health outcomes for all family members.”
The letter specifically focused the politicians’ attention on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, which Phipps was quoted as saying “has more influence on a child’s future than any other time”.
Next week (Wednesday 22 January 2014), the Institute of Employment Rights will bring together some of the UK’s leading experts on equality in the workplace to discuss this and other key issues, providing delegates an opportunity to grill legal and campaigning specialists on the government’s plans and what they can do to protect workers.
There are still a few seats remaining, so book your place now to avoid disappointment.