Unions call for change to SMP rules for striking workers

Unions call for pregnant women who strike not to be penalised when it comes to assessing the level of maternity pay they can access or whether they can access it at all.

Workers on strike


Two of the UK’s major unions have backed calls for pregnant women who go on strike during their qualifying period for maternity pay not to be penalised as a result.

Statutory Maternity Pay is generally 90% of pay for six weeks followed by 33 weeks at the statutory rate. It is calculated based on average earnings during the eight weeks up to the 26th week of pregnancy. Under current rules, pregnant women who strike during the qualifying period would have lower earnings than normal and would therefore get lower SMP or may not qualify for SMP at all if their earnings fall below the eligibility requirement of an average of £123 a week.

Women may also be eligible for contractual maternity pay which may be based on similar calculations. Campaigners argue that the rules could prevent women from exercising their legitimate right to strike for higher pay or better conditions. Both Unite and Unison have said that they should be changed.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: It is totally immoral to penalise pregnant women who stand up for decent pay against greedy employers by cutting their maternity pay. The current rules on this are a disgrace and amount to yet another attempt to undermine the right to strike. I can assure you that Unite will not allow our members to be attacked in this way. We have a multimillion-pound strike fund and we will ensure that any pregnant members taking industrial action do not lose out as a result during their maternity leave.”

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea added: “Taking strike action is a last resort when negotiations fail, but it’s a basic human right.

“As things stand, some pregnant workers who take legitimate action face a reduction in statutory or contractual maternity pay down the line.

“Pregnant workers and new mothers already struggle with spiralling costs, workplace discrimination and threats to their jobs. They shouldn’t face a financial penalty for exercising their rights. This loophole has to be closed.”

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