Maternity pay should be increased so that all mothers can choose
whether to work or stay at home, former cabinet minister Stephen
Byers said last week.
He called for maternity pay to be increased to a minimum £150
a week. Currently mothers receive six weeks’ maternity pay at 90
per cent of their average earnings followed by 20 weeks at
£100 a week.
Byers told a debate on the government’s early years strategy held
by The Maternity Alliance that the current payments gave only
well-off mothers the choice over whether to return to work. He said
increasing the payments to £150 a week would cost the
government less than £500m a year and would make “a real
He added that the possibility of allowing mothers and fathers to
divide paid maternity leave between them should also be
At the moment, parents are entitled to 13 weeks’ unpaid parental
leave in the first five years of the child’s life, and the father
can claim paternity pay of £100 a week for two weeks.
Maternity Alliance director Liz Kendall said: “We need to move
towards a European system with better paid maternity leave followed
by paid parental leave, part of which could be reserved for fathers
to support them to take on greater roles.”