Many pregnant women and new mothers could be up to £911.87 worse off due to the cumulative effects of cuts in benefits, including the decision announced in last week’s Autumn Statement to increase Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance by just 1% per year over the next three years, according to Maternity Action.
They say the 1% rise is below inflation and will result in a reduction in income of up to £221.87 by 2015, compared to indexing in line with inflation.
The reduction in statutory payments comes on top of a series of recent cuts to maternity and child benefits:
– The Health in Pregnancy Grant ceased in 2011. This was a £190 payment to all mothers which was paid in the later stages of pregnancy.
– The Sure Start Maternity Grant (SSMG) was restricted from 2011. This is a one-off payment of £500 for parents on lower incomes to assist with the costs of a new baby. The grant is now limited to first babies or multiple births.
– Child Benefit was frozen from 2011 and will be restricted from 2013. This is a payment of £20.30/week for the first child and £14.30/week for subsequent children. The payment was previously paid to all parents and will now phase out where one parent earns between £50,000 and £60,000.
Maternity Action says: “Reduced incomes during pregnancy and maternity leave impact on duration of leave, as financial concerns above all else determine the duration of maternity leave.
“Financial difficulties add to stress during pregnancy. There is evidence that women who experience stress during pregnancy are more likely to experience post-natal depression.” It adds that mothers also face new costs in exercising employment rights. From 2013, it will cost £1,200 for a woman to take a pregnancy discrimination claim to the employment tribunal.