UK the worst in Europe for parental leave pay

Mother and baby

The UK ranks the worst in Europe for paid parental leave, according to the TUC.

It says that new mothers in the UK get just six weeks of "well-paid" statutory maternity pay, at 90% of their wage - compared to the European average of 43 weeks.

The analysis - published to coincide with the Children and Families Bill beginning its Committee Stage in the Lords today - says new European parents are universally better-paid compared to those in the UK.

Well-paid, according to the official European definition, means someone getting at least two-thirds of their pre-maternity leave earnings, or a rate of pay greater than £840 (€1,000) a month.

While new mums in the UK are also entitled to an additional 33 weeks pay, this is only at the statutory rate of £136 a week and has itself fallen in real terms since the current government took over. In the UK, only one in four women receive extra maternity pay from their employer.

The situation is just as grim for UK dads. Fathers receive just two weeks of paternity leave, plus the right to take additional paternity pay of up to 19 weeks, but again at only £136 a week.

The TUC said because of the low rates of pay, barely one in three (29%) new fathers in the UK are able to spend longer than two weeks at home following the birth of their child. This has the knock-on effect of forcing mothers to take the majority of leave, which can lead to a drop in their incomes and permanent damage to their career prospects.

Scrooge of Europe

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Unfortunately when it comes to supporting parents looking after a new baby, the UK is the scrooge of Europe.

"Countries across Europe are incredibly diverse, especially in the challenges they face, yet all of them have found ways to offer better support for new parents. A modest way to start turning this around would be for the government to give new fathers six weeks of well-paid leave.

"Without a properly-paid system of shared parental leave, women will continue to be forced to put their careers on hold as they continue to be the primary carers in their child's all-important first year."

As part of the Children and Families Bill, the government plans to introduce a system of shared parental leave from 2015 - but it will still be paid at the rate of £136 a week.

More about