MP wrong to claim UK offers 52 weeks maternity pay

19 January 2023
What was claimed

The UK has 52 weeks of maternity pay.

Our verdict

Statutory maternity pay is for 39 weeks. It’s statutory maternity leave that can be for up to 52 weeks. Some employers may choose to offer additional pay.

The UK actually has 52 weeks of maternity pay

Conservative MP, Sir William Cash, has claimed in the House of Commons that the UK offers 52 weeks of maternity pay.

As charity Pregnant Then Screwed pointed out, this is false. Employees who are eligible can get statutory maternity pay, which is paid for up to 39 weeks. It’s statutory maternity leave which is 52 weeks.

To qualify for statutory maternity pay you need to earn on average at least £123 per week, have given the correct notice and proof that you are pregnant, and have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks continuing into the ‘qualifying week’ (the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth).

This pay is 90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks and £156.66 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. If someone on maternity pay is taking the full 52 weeks of maternity leave, the remaining 13 weeks are unpaid.

These statutory amounts are the minimum—some workplaces may have better benefits than this. ​​Those who don’t qualify may be eligible for maternity allowance.

To qualify for statutory maternity leave, as opposed to statutory maternity pay, you need to be an employee and have given the correct notice.

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International comparisons

Sir William went on to say that “the EU has merely eight [weeks of maternity pay]”. 

It’s unclear what this refers to. EU legislation says workers should be entitled to at least 14 weeks of continuous maternity leave, during which they are compensated at at least the national sick pay level.

While this is a minimum, in practice maternity leave in the EU varies widely by country.

The UK guarantees the longest period of maternity leave among OECD countries.

However, looking just at the length of paid maternity, parental and home care leave, the UK’s 39 weeks is below the OECD average of 51 weeks. 

Also, the amount of money mothers receive in the UK is relatively low. In 2022, the OECD calculated UK mothers were entitled to the equivalent of 11.5 weeks of full pay during their leave, higher than only Ireland (8), Australia (7.7), Switzerland (7.6) and the United States (0), when paid maternity, parental and home care leave was included. 

Full Fact has contacted Sir William for comment.

Image courtesy of Chris McAndrew

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After we published this fact check, we contacted Sir William Cash to request a correction regarding this claim.

Sir William is yet to respond.

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