WOMEN'S salaries plummet by 45% when they have a baby according to new research.
In the first year after returning to work, women earn 28%, or £306 a month, less on average than they did before they took maternity leave.
Over the next six years, this pay gap grows to a whopping 45% of lost income according to research carried out by University College London (UCL).
Wealthier women and women over 30 who were more established in their careers were less affected by having children. The most important factor was how many hours women can work after they return to their jobs.
Dr Giacomo Vagni, a researcher at UCL, said: "Working hours was one factor that did stand out in explaining the earning penalty.”
"We found that mothers who are able to maintain full-time working hours experience little to no penalty. However, few mothers manage to do so. After the birth of their first child, few manage to return to their pre-birth working hours."
Families reported a smaller decrease in overall household income, suggesting that fathers worked more hours or found better jobs after having children.
Highly educated households were more likely to see their income grow after having their first child, likely due to having better access to childcare. Both parents can then go back to full time work more quickly.
Your rights when returning to work after maternity leave
If you're considering getting pregnant, it may be worth checking out your company's policies on maternity leave before you start a family.
You are entitled to take the first 26 weeks after having a baby off, and you can choose to take an additional 26 weeks off.
You do not have to take the full 26 weeks, you are only legally required to take the first two weeks off (four weeks if you work in a factory), after that you can return whenever suits you best.
You are entitled to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) for the first 39 weeks. This is 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks or £151.97 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks.
After taking maternity leave, the transition back to working maybe challenging with the extra stress of arranging childcare. Plan ahead by knowing your rights just in case there are any unexpected changes at your place of work.
According to the Citizens Advice Bureau: “You’re entitled to return to the same job after maternity leave if you’ve been away 26 weeks or less. Your pay and conditions must be the same as or better than if you hadn’t gone on maternity leave."
It’s unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination if your employer says you can’t return to the same job.
It’s unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination if your employer doesn’t let you return to work after maternity leave, or if they offer you a different job without a strong reason. They can’t offer you a different job if:
- your job still exists – for example if they’ve given it to someone else
- your job would still exist if you hadn’t gone on maternity leave
- the new job isn’t something you could do
- the new job has worse conditions or pay than yours did – for example if you used to work part-time, and the new job would be full-time only
What childcare support is available and how to claim
Many parents don't realise they may be eligible for free or discounted childcare even if they're in work.
The government's Childcare Choices website has a handy website that allows parents to check what support is available for each child.
You may be eligible for any of the following:
Up to £2,000 (per child) of tax free childcare or early education
If you have children under the age of 11 (16 if disabled), are earning less than £100,000 and are not on Universal Credit, Tax Credits or childcare vouchers.
15 hours of free childcare or early education (per week) for 38 weeks of the year
If you have a child who is three or four years old, or you have a child who is two years old and you are on some form of support.
This means that you get 570 hours of free childcare or early education that you can use flexibly with one of more childcare provider.
30 hours of free childcare (per week) for 38 weeks of the year
If you are in work and your child is three or four years old.
This means you’ll receive a total of 1,140 hours per year, that you can use flexibly with one or more childcare provider, and some providers will allow you to "stretch" the hours over 52 weeks, using fewer hours per week.
You can also receive Universal Credit for childcare for children under the age of 17.
If you're still studying A-Levels, or at College or University
Students can receive weekly payments from Care to Learn if you’re at school or sixth-form college.
Students in further education can receive help through their college, and higher education students studying university level courses can apply for a weekly grant.
Check what support you’re eligible for and claim through Childcare Choices.
Can you claim benefits?
If you're a working parent on a low-income you may be eligible for Universal Credit and other benefits.
Universal Credit does not just apply to the unemployed, they can supplement your income even if you're in work.
You can check by using a free benefits checking tool, such as ones offered by Turn2Us, EntitledTo and Citizens Advice.
If you are entitled to claim Universal Credit, you may be able to get up to 85% of childcare costs depending on how much you earn.
If you're responsible for bringing up a child and you earn less than £50,000 a year, you are automatically entitled to child benefit.
You can claim child benefit as soon as you’ve registered the birth of your child, or when they come to live with you, by filling in the CH2 form and sending it back to the address on the form.
Universal Credit rates 2021: how much is it before and after the benefit payment cut?
Don’t let childcare cost you a fortune this summer with our cash-saving tips.
Check out this new online tool that helps you get financially fit in just four weeks.
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