How to survive Maternity Leave when you are used to a high salary

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How to Survive Maternity Leave Financially

How to Survive Maternity Leave financially. One of the biggest challenges, when you are used to a high salary, is that Maternity Pay doesn’t even come close to what you are used to earning. Even if your employer pays you more than Statutory Maternity Pay, it’s still not going to be the same.

While it’s nice to have a high salary coming in each month, you soon come crashing down to earth when it’s your turn for Maternity Leave. I have been through this twice now and both times when I was planning my Maternity Leave, money and my financial survival was at the front of my mind (it doesn’t help when you are accountant and live your professional life on a spreadsheet)

Here’s what you’ll learn in this post

  1. How to get clear on your Maternity Leave entitlements
  2. Why it’s important to set a budget for Maternity Leave (even if you don’t want)
  3. Why it’s important to cut back on non-essential spending
  4. Finding out where you can check for benefits
  5. Thinking about sharing your leave with your partner

What is the Maternity Pay Gap, and Why Does it Matter?

I know what you are saying – why are am I writing a specific article about Maternity Leave for high-income earners? This article is not meant to be offensive to low-income earners. The point of it is to show how to survive maternity leave financially when you have a large gap between your regular salary and Maternity Pay

You are saying they probably have loads of money so why should it matter to me? The fact is, the Maternity Pay gap is HUGE. It doesn’t matter whether you earn £15,000 a year or £50,000 a year it will be a massive deal to you. The bills you have, the lifestyle you have and everything else in your life will be built around your regular income. Then suddenly along comes Statutory Maternity Pay and your world comes crashing down around you.

My first Maternity Leave had a gap of about £35,000. Yes, I know I couldn’t believe it either. This post is about the main things I did to help myself survive financially during Maternity Leave

survive maternity leave financially

How to Survive Maternity Leave Financially 

1. Get clear on your Maternity Leave entitlements

Now is the time to find all of those dusty HR policies and procedures. If you can’t find them, try for a staff handbook or check your employment contract. Somewhere it needs to be written down what your Maternity Leave and Maternity Pay entitlements are.

Things to look out for:

How many holidays do you have left before your due date?

This is important because you don’t want your Maternity Leave to be starting any sooner than it has to. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, you want to maximise the amount of paid time you have while you are away from work. Secondly, you don’t want your Maternity Leave to finish any earlier than it has to (remember it must finish after 52 weeks and if you have started Maternity Leave early, you could be back before you are ready).

What are the rules around Ordinary Maternity Leave vs. Additional Maternity Leave?

Check what happens if you take Additional Maternity Leave. This is important if you have a lot of additional benefits in your salary package. Things like cars, phones, health insurance and bonuses are not always payable if you take longer than six months. Yes, I know that bit sucks but you need to be fully aware of what you are getting yourself in for.

Can you take some Keeping in Touch Days (KIT Days)?

Does your employer offer KIT Days? If so these are a great way to get 10 days of extra pay while you are on Maternity Leave. The good news is that you don’t need to work a full day to be paid for a full day’s work. Just check what they will pay you for these days (you should at least be paid minimum wage) but it is generally expected you get your normal hourly/daily rate.

What holidays and bank holidays will you build up while you are off?

You accrue holidays and bank holidays while you are on Maternity Leave (just as though you were at work). Check that you can take these holidays before you return to work. However, your Maternity Leave needs to be officially over to take these days.

Also, consider taking these days a few days at a time so that you can work part-time for a few weeks. I did this with the twins (after my embarrassment of running out of money and having to go back early). The benefit of this is you can ease yourself back into things and it’s a good practice if you are considering part-time working.

2. Set a budget for Maternity Leave

It doesn’t matter how much you earn now – that’s going to disappear pretty quick once you start Maternity Leave. Even if you are going to get some extra Maternity Pay from your employer, there is still an extra person to share that money with.

Don’t get complacent – I know budget setting is boring but it’s a necessary thing for Maternity Leave (even if this is the only budget you do in your entire life..).

A budget for Maternity Leave is important because it answers a really important question – When am I going to run out of money?

I’ve got loads of posts about setting a budget for Maternity Leave. You can find the best one here:

How to Save Money for Maternity Leave

3. Cut back on anything non essential

Maternity Leave is just a year. It might even be shorter than that. If ever there was a time to pause spending on luxury items (even if it’s just for a while), now is the time.

I found that my lunchtime shopping habits were financially killing me. By the time I bought my lunch and went on one of my MANY ‘getting organised’ shopping sprees, I was easy getting through at least £100 per week. When you put this kind of spending into context with Statutory Maternity Pay – stopping this kind of unnecessary spending can soon start to chip away at your Maternity Leave savings goal.

Another place to look is the number of gifts and extra things you buy. I know this will be controversial but if you are buying expensive gifts for everyone in town, now is the time to put a pause on that!

4. Check if you are entitled to any benefits

You won’t know if you don’t check. You might be entitled to Child Tax Benefit. This is around £20 per week for the first child. That will pay for a few bits and pieces.

The best place to check is here:

5. Consider sharing leave with your partner

The world is fast changing and often, the woman is the main income earner. Sometimes it can make financial sense to split your leave entitlement with your partner if they earn less than you. I know it’s not the same as staying home for the full year BUT it is an alternative to putting your baby into childcare before you are ready.

I worked with the first couple in the country to take Shared Parental Leave. It was so new that HR didn’t even know how to deal with it. In this case, the woman was the main income earner so it made financial sense for them to share their leave entitlements.

If you have found this post helpful, you might also enjoy: How Maternity Leave Works in the UK.

If you are trying to save money for Maternity Leave..

Why not download my FREE Maternity Leave Savings Cheat Sheet. It’s packed with tips, tricks and hacks to get your Maternity Leave savings account filled up in no time.

4 thoughts on “How to survive Maternity Leave when you are used to a high salary

  1. This is a very comprehensive yet user-friendly guide for those in the situation of needing to take maternity leave. I’ve known a couple of women who’ve found the situation really confusing, and I don’t have a clue, so this is very helpful!

    Caz xx

    1. Thank you so much. I’m glad my posts are helpful. One of the reasons why I write is because I just didn’t know any of this stuff – I relied on work colleagues and random coffee queue discussions to help me out. With most people working at home now I don’t think these sorts of chats happen and I would hate for other new mums out there to get a raw deal if they didn’t quite understand how things ‘really’ worked.

  2. This is such a helpful post, thank you for sharing! I’m currently expecting a baby and while my situation isn’t typical (I’m a graduate student on a stipend and work freelance) it’s still really useful to have the prompt to think about these things seriously.

    One thing I have noticed about maternity leave is that the 52 week rule means so many women are working right up to their due date, even if they’re struggling. For health reasons I stopped working at 23 weeks and I am so grateful I could do that easily, I can’t imagine how tough it must be to have to push through.

    1. Thank you so much. I’m glad my post is useful. It is really hard getting to the end and still working. When I had my twins I was told to sit on my sofa and don’t move from about 32 weeks. Thankfully I had enough holidays, dr’s appointments and an understanding boss to let me do that.

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