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Maternity leave/pay proposals from think-tank Reform: what do you think?

(148 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 16-Jul-09 13:02:07

Earlier this week we got invited along to the launch of a report by Reform about maternity/paternity pay and leave.

The gist of its proposals are:

* Change current maternity pay to parental pay

* Abolish salary-related element of maternity pay and pay it at a flat rate (£5,000) for all parents

* Stop making the pay dependent on amount of time taken off work

You can read the full report here.

The report's authors are keen to get a debate going and will be following this thread to hear your reactions, comments and ideas.


Tee2072 Thu 16-Jul-09 13:58:46

The website in the link is not loading for me!

So my only question, based on those bullet points is: £5,000 for a year? Flat rate? That's not that much than you get at the moment, for 9 months, or whatever it is!

Bramshott Thu 16-Jul-09 14:27:13

Okayyyyy - it's quite extensive!!! Reading through now - a few thoughts:

1. Love the title - I can see what they are doing to try to get away from the concept of leave being all about mothers, and all about a drain on the economy.

2. They say that 6 months is the "optimum length" of leave. I would disagree with this - if the WHO guidelines are to bf for at least 6 months, and most mothers take a month before the birth, that means returning to work when the baby is 5 months old, which is really very soon.

3. Productivity not Presenteeism - lots of good stuff here.

4. Flat payment - the problem here I guess is that you tend to depend on a certain level of income and gear your outgoings around that. A flat £5,000 payment could cut some workers pay by a substantial amount if they earn higher amounts, and the assumption seems to be that because they earn more, they will be able to afford it, whereas they may have structured their outgoings around a high salary and have little free cash.

shonaspurtle Thu 16-Jul-09 14:27:21

I'd be in favour of parental pay definitely. I'd have really appreciated the option for dh to have taken the second half of my leave.

randomtask Thu 16-Jul-09 14:28:38

Firstly, let me admit that I don't fully understand that as I haven't had children yet.

However, we're planning on TTC in the Autumn. Fair enough, people earning less will (still) earn less but, (and I know this may sound unfair), they are used to it. If you have worked loads and then suddenly your salary goes down that much, how do you afford your mortgage and all those things?! We don't earn loads (but I do work full time) and to earn less than I do already, is scary. When I am able to go back to work, it won't financially be viable for me to because of paying for a nursery (DH is a teacher so although at the bottom end, earns enough that the government wouldn't pay out).

As for the pay being related to the amount of time taken off work, granted it's not a good idea, it makes people go back before they're ready. But unless there is a system in place to give the same amount of money until your children are legal adults, surely at some point it will be related to the amount of time you've taken off.

As for parental leave (and the stupid low income you get) it's not very good but at the risk of sounding sexist, why do men need more than a couple of weeks off? Surely the answer is to pay them a normal full time salary (make the companies pay not the government). Making it 'parental leave' surely just means the mother who is recovering and dealing with a new life will be put back and be viewed with less importance?

As I say, I haven't experienced any of this yet but we're in the process of buying a house (with a mortgage a third of our joint salaries) and it makes me feel sick every time I try to work out if we'll be able to afford it still when I'm not working. I don't know if it happens but, why not pay parents council tax for a year? I know LA's would get less money but surely, that would be more beneficial and more direct to cut parents costs?

Feel free to ignore me as (I've already stated), I'm in an ideal world on this not a real one!!

HighOnDieselAndGasoline Thu 16-Jul-09 14:33:44

Parental pay is an excellent idea.

I agree with Bramshott that 6 months is quite short if you are going to breastfeed, particularly given that many bf babies refuse to take a bottle.

Not sure about the flat payment. I agree that lower income families could do with more support, but what about higher income families where the woman is the main breadwinner? In such cases, £5000 will not go very far. OK, the father could take time off work, but as I know from bitter experience, many men are not that comfortable in sole charge of a very young baby.

jellybeans Thu 16-Jul-09 14:35:05

Haven't time to read it in full yet, will look back later, but I agree with randomtask, men don't need so much time off as women. Women may be recovering from surgery (may need 12 weeks at least) and also may be breastfeeding. This works alot better with mother and baby being close. I don't get why men and women must be exactly the same, many men do not want to be stay home dads or have leave, DH was glad to be back. Anyway will check back later when have read it nd know what I am talking about!

randomtask Thu 16-Jul-09 14:35:22

I hadn't read about the 6 months. I think it should be a year at most. It doesn't work if you are BF and also that's probably just about the point you start feeling human again and getting into a routine. Just puts more pressure on Mums.

shonaspurtle Thu 16-Jul-09 14:37:13

random task: I may be misunderstanding you, but men need time off to look after their baby. Granted, as I bf dh wouldn't have been able to look after ds in the same way at that stage (without a lot of expressing faff or ds being brought to my workplace, which I have known to work for some people) but the second six months, he could easily have been the sahp and I could have gone back to work full time before we made the decision at 12 months what we were going to do.

As I earn more (pro-rata now) than dh it would have made sense for our family. There are lots of women who are the higher wage earners and for whom "maternity" leave does not make the best financial sense.

flowerybeanbag Thu 16-Jul-09 14:39:51

If someone is on a low wage already, the percentage drop in her income that results from taking maternity leave is potentially very low indeed. If someone is on a higher wage, once the first 6 weeks at 90% are over, the percentage drop to £120 a week or whatever SMP is now might be huge, meaning taking a long maternity leave is simply out of the question, especially if she is the main breadwinner.

So there is equally an argument that in fact more of maternity (or parental) pay should be based around earnings, rather than less.

KingRolo Thu 16-Jul-09 14:44:09

Loads of good stuff but I'm not sure about parental leave. In theory it's great, nobody could object to fathers being more involved in bringing up their child.

The problem is that no matter how supportive, wonderful and liberated the father it's the mother who needs to finish work at 34 - 36 weeks pg (the first month of maternity leave), the mother who needs time to recover from the physical stresses of the birth, the mother who feeds the baby (if bfing) and therefore the mother who suffers the sleepless nights.

We could end up with a situation where women are forced to go back to work when the baby is just three or four months old meaning there's a much higher chance of breastfeeding ending prematurely (when the WHO recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months) or women exhausting themselves expressing at work.

I was nowhere near ready to return to work, physically or mentally, until my daughter was seven or eight months old.

shonaspurtle Thu 16-Jul-09 14:45:37

Yes. I would object to being limited to 6 months leave, even if dh could have 6 months on top of that. I think it has to be flexible to take into account the needs of the individual family.

Bramshott Thu 16-Jul-09 14:51:20

Sorry if I've introduced a red herring here - I don't think they are saying that leave should be limited to six months, but that six months is the optimum length and that longer leaves can make a return to the workplace more difficult and reduce someone's career progression. I agree with that from a work point of view (it was certainly easier to return to work after 4 months leave with DD2, than 9 months leave with DD1) BUT I think it is in danger of going against the WHO guidelines on breastfeeding which is a very crucial and very important point.

ThursdayNext Thu 16-Jul-09 15:05:11

It seems odd to me that a 28 page document about maternity leave only mentions breastfeeding once. If we want to support breastfeeding then a minimum of 6 months of maternity leave is surely appropriate, with parental leave for mothers or fathers after that for an additional 3 or 6 months.
Much of the report seems to be concerned with keeping both parents in the workforce. I'm not sure this should be a government policy.
I would agree that the current system of maternity and childcare related benefits are far too complicated and need to be reformed.

TheCrackFox Thu 16-Jul-09 15:18:30

Sounds, to me, all about saving money. Must get those lazy mothers back to work as quick as possible.

To properly support BF mothers should have 12 months off.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Thu 16-Jul-09 15:30:22

I agree that there should be the option for father's to take some of the leave, it would be especially helpful to families where the mother is also the main breadwinner.
I would be very sceptical of anything that supports a return to work in less than 12 months because of the impact on breastfeeding.

It all depends what the priority is. If it is to ensure the health (and therefore the ability to work) of the next generation then breastfeeding support must be key. If it is to get both parents back into the workplace asap after birth then that is a whole different issue.

KingRolo Thu 16-Jul-09 15:31:16

The points that maternity leave should enable breastfeeding are very important.

To breastfeed is the single most important thing a mother can do for her child's short and long term health. I would argue it's far more important than having the father around more in the early days.

Rhian82 Thu 16-Jul-09 16:05:27

I'm definitely in favour of parental instead of maternity leave. When DS was born I loved my job, DH hated his, and I earned a lot more - so how come it had to be me that took the time off? It's the first time in my life I've been told I had to do something because I'm a woman and I found it hugely offensive.

Hulla Thu 16-Jul-09 16:08:43

I agree that it would have a negative impact on bf rates.

A flat rate of £5k would have sent me back to work a lot sooner than the 12 months I intend to take and definately sooner than the 6 month.

If it was also expected that I'd return to work after 6 months then my dd (5.5months) would be ff by now (she's bottle-refuser - it would be a battle).

My boys-club-type employer has only just started offering 12 months mat leave. This would feel like a backwards step.

It took me months to get over the birth and I am only just beginning to enjoy being a mum and start getting out and about.

As for the impact having a year off will have on my career - I'll take my chances. It's such a small part of my childs life. I will probably never get to spend this much time with her again so I'm not going to worry about the impact of an extra 6 months mat leave on my career.

elliepac Thu 16-Jul-09 16:11:53

I don't have any problems with many of the points that the article makes. I can see how it even things out between higher and lower earners however. However, as a higher earner myself and the main breadwinner in our house and in the public sector which operates it's own maternity scheme (halfpay plus SMP till 18 weeks and then SMP for rest of time), £5000 is less than I received for the 20 weeks I had off and as the main breadwinner I couldn't afford to stay off any longer then. If this scheme was implemented I would have had to go back after about 3.5 months ish. DH isn't confident with young babies so that wouldn't have been an option. It would feel as if I was being penalised for having a child rather than supported. I worked hard to get a good job with half decent maternity pay and would resent losing it. However, conversely I am all for helping those on lower incomes out more. And the idea of parental leave would be a good idea for many people.

jellybeans Thu 16-Jul-09 17:06:16

'Emphasis has thus been placed on encouraging both parents into employment.'

I would say this is the thing that stood out to me and always does with this kind of Gov.
I am a stay home mum, or 'workless' according to the authors!

Anyway, the article mentions that not just mothers raise children, this is true. But only mothers give birth and breastfeed and in general want to stay home with their baby for the first few months.

I see nothing wrong with the Dad staying home but it's not for everyone and I feel it's wrong to try to push both parents into full time work. Lots of people prefer the 'traditional' way. If they want to, fine, but there is nothing wrong with staying home and being 'workless' and raising your child, whether Mum or Dad!

poppy34 Thu 16-Jul-09 17:46:28

Agree that where mother is main earner 5k may be too low . Also doesn't this take away the discretion of some employers who offer return bonuses as incentives and which are often added in to the mix when people are considering what the cash impact of returning to work is.
Also agree with others that six months isn't long if you take in pre term maternity leave and if you want to promote breastfeeding. All in all I don't think I agree with any of main proposals.

Rhian82 Thu 16-Jul-09 19:11:17

I can't believe anyone would disagree with the concept of parental leave. It's all about choice - if you (as mum) being off works for you and your partner, and your recovery from the birth and your choices about breastfeeding, then good for you. But how dare anyone take the choice away from me and every other mother and father out there?

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 16-Jul-09 19:13:25

Message withdrawn

AAE Thu 16-Jul-09 19:24:06

Haven't read properly but if I were in charge!!:

1 year maternity leave paid at 75% pay OR at least £500 per month


6 months paternity pay at 75% OR at least £500 per month

I would give each couple 2 years in which to take their entitlement in 6 month blocks and allow parents to work the other 25% should they and their employers wish to do so.

This would acheive
1 - establishing breastfeeding and weaning onto solids if desired
2 - allow parents to avoid full-time daycare for little ones for up to 18 months which has shown to benefit babies if parents so wish
3 - acknowledge the father's important role
4 - allow part-time working to keep 'up' with work/ earn more/ establish more family friendly work patterns for the future
5 - support lower income families and also give similar choices for higher income families with commitments.

Just my ideas in case anyone is listening!

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