- 2023 National Women's Conference
- 14 October 2022
- Carried as Amended
The cost of living crisis is affecting everyone, with the inflation rate, hitting 10% last month, the highest levels in 40 years. The energy prices have rocketed and daily household expenses have also increased but wages are just rising by a maximum of just 5.2% (according to the Office for Budget Responsibility), with benefits increasing by just 3.1%. The dramatic drop in income experienced by households means that many are struggling to pay for the basic necessities.
Whilst the cost of living crisis will affect everyone, it is apparent it will disproportionately be felt by those women on maternity leave or new mothers. The failure to increase of maternity pay to keep up with the drastic increase in the cost of living will not only cause financial hardship but also drive more and more pregnant women and new mothers into poverty.
The current basic rate statutory maternity and parental pay from April 2022 is only £156.66 per week. It equates to just 47% of the National Living Wage (for a 35-hour week at the adult rate of £9.50 per hour).
At time when they need their income to keep up with the costs of a new baby, women are getting penalised and finding themselves in financial difficulties.
According to the survey carried out by Maternity Action, nearly two-thirds of respondents said that they worried a lot about money while they were pregnant or on maternity leave. Not only women are worried about the immediate financial problems that the sharp drop in income causes, they are also worried about their future finances ranging from the inordinately high costs of childcare in the UK when they did return to work, to the long term impact on their future income and pension describing it as the “motherhood penalty”. This is then having a negative effect on their mental health and well-being not to mention the detrimental effect on relationships.
Conference is pleased to note that UNISON’s Campaign Fund has provided a significant sum of money to commission an important piece of research by Maternity Action. The research will build the evidence base about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on pregnant workers and new parents, identify strategic legal cases, and lobby and campaign to improve both investment in maternity pay and benefits and maternity and parental rights.
Conference calls upon the Women’s National Committee:
1. To work with National Labour Link to press the government to resolve the Cost of living.
2. To campaign with Maternity Action to protect and improve maternity rights & extend financial support to pregnant workers/new mothers in hardship.
3. To widely publicise the findings of the new research carried out by Maternity Action when available and consider organising events to involve and support branches, regional women’s groups, and women’s officers in future campaigning activities.
4. To encourage branches and regions to affiliate to Maternity Action and ask that they consider inviting a speaker to their Branch / Region to highlight the work of Maternity Action.
5. To ensure women are not penalised for going on maternity leave/being new mothers by lobbying government (working with appropriate groups such as TUC and Maternity Action) to put incentives in place for affordable pre-school child care.
6. To report back to National women’s Conference 2024