Financial stress forcing many new mothers back to work early, research suggests

Most new mothers suffer financial stress during pregnancy and maternity leave, forcing them back to work earlier than they would like after the birth, research suggests.

Maternity Action said its survey of 1,000 new mothers showed that three out of five managed by using credit cards, and a similar number had returned to work early or were planning to do so.

The charity said only 13% of women on maternity leave benefit from employers’ occupational maternity pay schemes, down from 44% in 2008.

It highlighted women unable to claim statutory maternity pay because of the nature of their work contracts or self-employment.

Ros Bragg, director of Maternity Action, said: “The low levels of maternity pay and benefits come as a huge shock to many trying to start families. We’ve heard from women skipping meals, relying on food parcels and becoming anaemic because they can’t buy healthy food.

“This isn’t good for the health and wellbeing of mothers or their babies.

“We’ve yet to hear from the Government or any of the political parties about how they will respond to this pregnancy poverty crisis if they were elected.

“It is crucial that plans are put in place to invest in improving levels of maternity pay and benefits over the term of the next government.”

The charity launched its manifesto to End Pregnancy Poverty to all the political parties before the next general election.