Millions say UK’s statutory paternity and maternity leave ‘less than adequate’

24.8 million Brits believe the UK’s current Statutory Paternity Leave (SPL) policy, is ‘less than adequate’, new research has found. A further 16.3 million also deem the UK’s Statutory Maternity Leave (SML) policy to be ‘less than adequate’ at present. The study which was compiled by online printing specialists instantprint, explored how Brits felt about the current maternity and paternity packages offered to them by the government.

The UK offers 52 weeks of SML to new mothers. Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is given for up to 39 weeks of leave, this consists of:

• 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks
• £156.66 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks

Expecting dads can take up to two weeks of SPL which is paid at a rate of £156.66, or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower). Shared parental leave is also available to new parents who can receive pay for the first 39 weeks of this. The UK’s Statutory Adoption Leave allows to 52 weeks off work, with some pay for 39 weeks.

According to the findings, four in ten of those surveyed said they believe the current renumeration packages for Statutory Maternity and Paternity Leave are less ‘less than adequate’. Around a fifth more women than men believe the current SPL offering is ‘less than adequate’ (54% v 38%). And around ten percent more women than men (35% v 28%) also think the SML offering in the UK is not good enough in its current state.  A further third (33%) also feel the current pay offered under the Adoption Leave Policy is not sufficient, and one in five said the leave period was ‘less than adequate’ (22%).

At present, the UK’s Statutory Adoption Leave policy allows those adopting a child to enjoy up to 52 weeks off work, with some pay for 39 weeks – which is almost identical to that offered as part of the UK’s Maternity Leave Package.

When quizzed about the ‘work perks’ they’d be willing to compromise on in order to access an enhanced maternity, paternity, or adoption leave package from their employer, many Brits were reluctant to swap out existing benefits. Seven in ten (69%) admitted that a competitive salary was more attractive to them than an enhanced maternity, paternity, or adoption leave package. Interestingly, more men consider an enhanced maternity, paternity, or adoption leave package (37%) a more valuable benefit from a current or prospective employer than women (26%).

Both a company car and private healthcare were found to be higher on the list of priorities in terms of value for 66% of Britons. Just three in ten (31%) believe an enhanced maternity, paternity, or adoption leave package to be more valuable than a competitive annual leave allowance. Two thirds (64%) of UK adults even shared they would value company away days in higher regard.

Less than a quarter of those surveyed (22%) said their company already offers a substantial number of employee perks and benefits, in addition to an enhanced maternity/paternity package.

Following the results of their survey, instantprint were also eager to highlight which countries around the world were the best for working parents when comparing government policies with average costs of living and childcare for 31 different countries across the world.

The rankings found that Sweden is the best country for working parents in 2022.

Sweden does not have Statutory Maternity or Paternity Leave, instead offering Shared Parental Leave which is set at 240 days (34 weeks) per parent – so a total of 480 days can be distributed between the parents accordingly.

Adding to this, the average rent equates to £810.93 per month, whilst basic utilities average £64.47. For parents living in Sweden, private childcare is likely to set them back around £106.83 per month.

With an average salary of £2301.55 (after tax), these bills account for 42% of a Swedish resident’s take home pay (if they’re not splitting the bills with anyone else). Joining Sweden in the top five were Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland, and Romania.  Despite their fairly generous SML offering, the UK secured position 25 out of a possible 31 countries.

Average rent for a family of three within the country is high at £1,713 per month (more than double that of Sweden). Additionally, utilities add £169.55 to Brits’ outgoings each month leaving little room for other spending (almost triple what Swedes pay), whilst hose that opt to send their children to private nursery or childcare could also find themselves spending £969.57 each month on this expense (more than nine times the average in Sweden).

For context, the average take home pay in the UK comes to £2,281.25, if a single parent were to foot the bill of each of these costs on their own, they would end up over-spending by £570.87 each month.

Top 10 Countries for Working Parents:
1 Sweden
2 Bulgaria
3 Hungary
4 Finland
5 Romania
6 Lithuania
7 Estonia
8 Croatia
9 Czechia
10 Poland

Comparatively, the small European country of Luxembourg was found to top the bottom five. Luxembourg offers just 20 days SML to new mothers at 100% of their pay, with no set SPL reserved for fathers within the statutory allowance. That said, there are 24 weeks available of unpaid shared parental leave. The USA, Germany, Austria, Belgium and Denmark joined Luxembourg at the bottom end of the scale.

Laura Mucklow, Head of instantprint, commented on the findings: “It’s clear to see that not all countries are built equal when it comes to their government’s policies on maternity and paternity leave, with some countries offering no official policies at all versus others letting new parents over a year off to be with their child. And when you look at the variables such as available shared parental leave, the cost of living and childcare in each country, it’s obvious that some new parents may be better off than others.

“For those of us looking at starting a family, it may be appealing to head elsewhere and get the best financial support. But any would-be expats should investigate their chosen country’s policy closely before making the big move, as there may be specific conditions employees have to meet before they can get maternity or paternity leave so it’s worth doing your research before you take the leap!”