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Tobi Asare’s website tries to help women to be as informed as possible, with budgeting spreadsheets, an employer directory, and workshops on the return to work.
When Tobi Asare was pregnant with her first child in 2017, she had a Whatsapp group with some pregnant friends that turned into a vital source of financial know-how. The women used the group to compare how much maternity pay they were getting, whether their partners were also getting paid time off, and how their employers were behaving overall.
“I was really lucky that I was pregnant at the same time as a lot of my friends…We’d ask [questions], we’d discuss, we’d share our thoughts and experiences,” says Asare, pictured above. “And that led me to think: ‘Imagine if you had this platform, where there was this wealth of information at your fingertips, imagine how much easier it would be to navigate this journey.”
In 2018 Asare set up My Bump Pay, a website that helps women to plan financially for their maternity leave and also manage their return to work. She had some help with setting up the site from another mum-entrepreneur who she met via a Facebook group. She also used Fiverr, an online platform for finding freelancers, to buy in help with some technical aspects. Her project now has over 20,000 followers on Instagram and 1,500 email subscribers.
My Bump Pay has a free employer directory, where users can search for companies and read up on their parental leave policies. The directory also includes companies’ benefits for mothers and fathers once they return to work, such as flexible working and family health insurance.
“I wanted to put the power of information into women’s hands, so that they could make the best choice for them, and be in organisations where they could really thrive,” says Asare, who now has two children and runs My Bump Pay alongside her job at a media agency.
My Bump Pay’s directory is crowd-sourced – employees write in with their company’s parental leave policies and other benefits, plus their review of being a working parent there, so that job-seekers can make more informed choices. It can otherwise be surprisingly hard for job-seekers to get hold of these details.
Campaigners have long criticised employers’ lack of transparency on parental leave policies. Only 33% of companies analysed by the Parental Fog Index 2022, an annual report, published full details of these policies on their websites, including pay and duration of leave. Many job-seekers feel uncomfortable asking for such details during interviews.
Crowd-sourced directories can help to fill the information gap, but they are hard to keep up-to-date. Asare acknowledges that this has been a challenge with her directory, which currently covers almost 60 UK employers. She puts a date on each company’s page, to alert readers to the fact that policies may have since changed.
My Bump Pay also provides free budgeting spreadsheets and templates, to help women plan their maternity leave finances. The spreadsheets are set up with categories for incoming and outgoing money, so the user can just fill in their numbers and start to analyse their spending.
“This helps you to make the calculations and then have the right conversations with your partner, your family, your employer,” says Asare, who encourages women to do their budgeting well before they start maternity leave. She hosts paid workshops on issues such as planning the return to work, to cover the costs of her free services.
In many cases, finances will affect how long a new mother can be off work. In the UK, working women are entitled to state maternity pay for almost nine months – but the rate they receive for most of this period is just £156.66 per week. Many companies offer “enhanced maternity pay” above the state minimum, but these packages vary widely and depend on what each employer can afford.
Asare stresses that women shouldn’t focus solely on maternity pay when assessing employers – they should also consider the longer-term picture, in terms of how a company will support them with being a working parent. Some companies offer return-to-work coaching sessions, phased returns, and flexible working.
For Asare, the key is to be as informed as possible. She recommends that job-seekers always look at a company’s parental leave policies, even if they’re not thinking about starting a family anytime soon.
“Just have a rough idea, just have a read,” she says. “The same way that you’d look at what your holiday allowance is going to be when you’re looking at any job offer.”