How can you plan your money for maternity and paternity leave?

By Jenn Taft
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Planning for time off with your new child is important. Our guide will help set you up.

Taking time off with your new bundle of joy is important. You need to consider how much time off your like, whether you are in fact eligible for time off and how much you could get paid when on leave. What can your employer offer you? What do you do if you are self-employed or adopting?

All of this could be a headache if left, so learn the important information that will set you up for a worry free leave on the right amount of pay.

What is maternity leave?

Maternity leave is the time you take off away from your usual job to have your baby and to look after them.

If you are expecting a baby you should check your eligibility for maternity leave with your employer. All expectant mothers who work are entitled to Statutory Maternity Leave, but your HR representative is a good person to speak to as they will have the knowledge to be able to help you plan your leave and let you know what you are entitled to.

A few key points and figures about maternity leave are as follows:

·         By law you have to take the first two weeks of baby’s life off, which is a great law to have as it forces you to recover! If you work in a factory, this is 4 weeks, probably due to the strenuous nature of the job.

·         You can take up to 52 weeks of maternity pay, 26 weeks as ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks as additional maternity leave.

·         You are expected to let your employer know the date on which you intend to start your maternity leave, and this date can be up to 11 weeks before baby is due. You might think that is a lot but many health related reasons may stop you from working right up to your due date. Plus the closer you get, the bigger you will get and the chance to put your feet up may be welcome!

How much will I be paid when on maternity leave?

Maternity Pay is how much you will be paid when you take time off to have and to care for your baby. Calculating this can be hard, but again if your HR representative is on the ball they will be able to break down exactly what your pay will be made up of. I know I had a certain number of weeks at full pay, then half pay, and then there was time spent just on Statutory Maternity Pay.

Want to know what you will get? Use a maternity pay calculator to help you work it out. If you have this information to hand when you speak to HR you will be better prepared for what they will say.

If you aren’t entitled to maternity pay through your employer or you are self-employed, you may be able to claim Maternity Allowance. This means that you still get some help, though it isn’t as much as maternity pay.

What can I get for Paternity Leave and Pay?

Standard paternity leave is 2 weeks, usually one week full pay and one week half pay. If you are lucky and work for a good employer, you may even get both weeks at full pay. A lot of partners tend to save up some holiday time and tag it on the end of their paternity leave, or take the hit in pay and take time off unpaid.

Partners should also get paid time off to attend antenatal appointments with the mother of the baby, though some employers restrict this to two appointments, usually the scans.

What is Shared Parental Leave?

To account for the diverse nature of family life parental leave has had a bit of an overhaul recently. Shared Parental Leave has been devised, to allow parents to enjoy their children as much as they deserve to and in a way that works for them, as best as possible.

Each parent has to apply for Shared Parental Leave separately and if eligible, you can take leave in blocks instead of all at once. This means that if it would work better for each of you to take leave at different times then you can do so, allowing both parents the chance to enjoy their child equally away from a work environment.

Shared Parental Leave still seems quite new but is set to become more common place. There are for now, therefore, quite a lot of guidelines and requirements to meet. If it is something you think would be good for you then it is worth doing the reading around it and pursuing it with your employer.

What are the conditions as an adoptive parent?

Your rights as an adoptive parent are extremely similar to those mentioned above. One adoptive parent can receive the equivalent of maternity pay and another the equivalent of paternity pay. Your jobs are also protected in the same way.

The differences are around the start date of the leave. You can start the leave up to 14 days before the adoption is finalised, or the day the baby is born if a surrogate is used.

Statutory Adoption Pay is paid up to 39 weeks and you could get more pay if your employer has an adoption pay scheme.

Need some more information? Have a look here on First4Adoption.org.

What benefits am I entitled to as a new parent?

As a new parent there are a few benefits you are entitled to. Though not all huge expenses, I know I am always grateful all and any help we receive.

·         Child benefit – always welcome! This money can pay for a lot each month for your child.

·         Free prescriptions – You can claim this when pregnant and for the first year of baby’s life. On those occasions of being ill where you need medicine, getting that £8.60 per item free feels wonderful! To get this benefit, you just need a Maternity Exemption Certificate which your doctor or midwife will help you sort.

·         Free dental – Having had dental work done after both pregnancies, I was super grateful that this came up free! It would have otherwise cost me around £600. That’s not to be sniffed at!

·         Child Tax Credits – It’s worth checking whether you can receive Child Tax Credits. There are criteria to meet, but if you can receive any more monetary help it is worth the effort to find out.

It’s best to budget!

It may feel tedious to do but take some time to work out what bills you pay each month and what other outgoings you spend your monthly income on. This visual representation of your monthly finances will quickly show you where you can make cuts if necessary, and will also point out any bills that you no longer need. You can then make a plan going forward of what you will be able to spend each month.

Author bio: Jenn is a freelance writer and physics teacher from the West Midlands. She has a love of writing about personal finances, especially how they change when you become a parent, and enjoys the honesty that such writing brings. When not writing, teaching or being a mum, Jenn loves nothing more than indulging her love of hospital and police based documentaries, and cake.

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