How to Survive Unpaid Maternity Leave

How to Survive Unpaid Maternity Leave

Sharing is caring!

Why am I getting unpaid maternity leave?

SO you’ve read the HR policies and found out that you only qualify for unpaid maternity leave… You’ll be thinking how difficult it can be to plan a maternity leave with very little money and still have the experience of that time off with your baby.

Here are 10 things you should do to plan your unpaid maternity leave, you might be surprised with the result.

Before you read on it’s important that you remember this doesn’t mean you are not entitled to Maternity Leave. The requirement for being entitled to Maternity Leave is being employed for one day. Maternity Pay however has qualifying criteria, which you might not have met.

You might find yourself in this situation if you have recently changed employers or are self employed. As you know, most of my blogs are written with employed Mums in mind, but the message in this one is for those who are self employed too.

Take a deep breath

Once the news of unpaid maternity leave hits you, it can be a very bitter pill to swallow. You are probably feeling 100 different emotions right now – anger, frustration and maybe a bit scared. It’s only natural to feel this way.

If you have ever been on one of those manager’s training courses, I liken it to the change curve. It’s literally a wave of different emotions which are coming at you. First of all, you feel pretty awful when the news breaks, but over time you will come out of it feeling alright. Let’s focus on what you are in control of.

Remember that there is nothing more important right now than your own health at that of your unborn baby. Take some deep breaths and read on.

Stop spending money right now

It’s probably a good idea to stop spending money RIGHT NOW.

At least give yourself the chance to take stock of your finances and give yourself the opportunity to understand how bad (or not) things are going to be. This might feel really harsh and not what you want to hear, but give yourself an hour or two to understand things.

Get absolutely clear on your income

The first thing you should do is write down all of your income. You need to do this for:

(1) The time between now and when the baby is due, and

(2) The time you expect to be on maternity leave

For the purposes of this exercise, try and separate your money into these two buckets.

Does unpaid maternity leave really equal no money?

The next thing you should do is look through those HR policies at work and look through them again. Try and figure out what it is that is telling you that you are getting unpaid maternity leave. Here are some common scenarios:


  • haven’t been employed there for long enough (so joined in the 15 weeks before your due date or employed for less than 26 weeks)
  • are leaving the job 15 weeks before your due date
  • don’t qualify as an employee
  • don’t earn enough money

I want to tell you a quick story about when I was a manager of a pregnant employee. This lady had recently joined the company and had in her mind “I’ve joined in the last six months so I don’t qualify”. But, when we sat down and took the time to work things out properly i.e. in weeks – it turned out that she did qualify by one week! So please make sure you read everything properly.

Note that your employer can’t just say “we don’t pay maternity” – they have to at least pay you the minimum amount of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) if you qualify. If they get funny with you, remind them that they can claim the money back from HMRC so they aren’t actually out of pocket.

Don’t forget about using up your holidays, bank holidays and keeping in touch days. These soon add up and can add some desperately needed cash to your funds.

@The Mum’s Guide to Money
Unpaid Maternity Leave - Income Checklist

If you don’t check for benefits you won’t know

“But we earn too much, we won’t qualify for benefits”.

If you don’t ask you won’t get it. Even if you are only entitled to Child Tax Benefit, that extra money will pay for nappies each month (try and see what these small amounts of money can be used for: it really helps you to get your head around some of the costs).

You can check here to see what your entitlements might be.

Make a list of all your expenses

This is the hard part, and one of things I write about the most on this blog.

W.R.I.T.E down your expenses. There is something about putting down on paper what you are spending to make your brain and consciousness understand things a whole lot better.

Like you did for your income, do the following:

(1) from now until your due date, what will your outgoings be?

(2) for the time you expect to be away from work with the baby

Take a red pen to your non essential outgoings

Now you have everything down on paper, it’s time to get your red pen out.

What can you stop spending money on? Remember that maternity leave is not forever. You can always buy things after you are back at work.

If you are starting to worry at this point, take some deep breaths and focus on the outcome that you want – use that positive image of you and your baby to fuel your ‘stop spending money mantra’.

It’s helpful to consider each thing you spend money on in the context of maternity pay. For example if you spend £50 on a subscription to something non essential – consider what you do with that £50 during maternity leave. Would it pay for the weekly shopping? Would it go towards your rent or mortgage while you were on unpaid leave? Visualise what you would do with the money instead of buying new shoes.

Small savings soon add up

Now you know your income and expenses, it’s time to work out what you need to save.

What is the difference between your income and expenses?

Remember we worked income and expenses out for pre-post baby?

Do the savings calculation first for Maternity Leave. I would expect it to look pretty grim. At what point are you forecast to run out of money?

Now do the same thing for your pre-baby income and expenses. What savings can you make from that money to help your unpaid maternity leave be better? Any money you can save now should be put into a separate bank account if you can – that way you can ‘pay yourself’ when you are on maternity leave.

Maternity Leave Savings

When you are going through your expenses, don’t brush over the small things. The £5 here and the £5 there normally add up to the biggest amount of non-essential spending. Instead of buying coffee or lunch, squirrel that money away in your maternity leave savings account.

Work out what you really need for the baby on day one

Take a deep breath and focus on what is essential for day one.

Are you able to share your leave with a partner?

Whilst the default position on who stays home to look after the baby has traditionally been the Mum, it’s becoming increasingly common for partners to take parental leave instead. If you and your partner are in the situation where one of you will be paid for the first year of your baby’s life and the other won’t – think about making the swap (even if it’s just for part of the time).

Are you pregnant – or planning a baby – but worried you can’t afford to take maternity leave?

The Mum’s Guide to Money can help you plan your maternity leave, so you’re financially comfortable – and don’t have to worry about money before, during and after your baby’s birth.

By the time you get to the end, you will have made a budget for Maternity Leave, and you will know how long you can afford to have off.  Because the last thing you want is to run out of money

This book is the only one of its kind in the UK. So don’t waste time looking all over the internet for the answers to your questions. They are right here in one place.  So you can spend more time planning the Maternity Leave of your dreams.

The Mum’s Guide to Money is available for Amazon Kindle Pre-Order NOW.

This post may contain affiliate links and advertising. If you make a purchase of something that I have recommended I may earn a commission. This commission is at no extra cost to you. The commission I earn helps to keep the content in this blog free.

Leave a Reply