Maternity Leave. For me that has meant 8 months off work to look after our new cherub. I didn’t take a gap year like many peers in my younger years, so Maternity Leave for me felt like my chance for that ‘gap’, a new life experience away from the 9 to 5.

But now into my 5th month off work and with thoughts growing in my mind of returning I am struck by how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity. Children North East has a great Maternity Leave policy which means they have topped up my Statutory entitlements for around 6 months. In previous organisations all I would have received was Statutory which would have put us on or below the poverty line.

So why do I feel lucky?

Well, it turns out that Maternity Leave and paid Maternity Leave is a recent phenomenon in Britain. Statutory maternity pay was introduced in 1987 and it wasn’t until 1993 that coverage was extended to all working women, in order to bring Britain into compliance with a European Commission directive.

So on more than one occasion since going on my leave I have thought about how it is not a God given right to have well paid Maternity Leave. But why offer employees any more than the Statutory minimum?

A quick Google search does not offer me many answers. Search entries are mainly focused on explaining Statutory maternity leave rights. So I am left to my own thoughts which are namely;

  1. To improve employee loyalty – I certainly feel valued by my employer and that in turn makes me feel an additional loyalty to the fabulous charity. This loyalty must also improve productivity of moms that return to work.
  2. To reduce turnover and costs (possibly) – In turn such feelings of loyalty will keep mothers from looking for other work. Whether this leads to a reduction in costs is debatable. I can’t find any research that accurately compares the costs of enhanced maternity leave schemes and costs of recruitment etc.

And lastly and most importantly;

  1. Because of a moral obligation – As a children’s charity my employer is setting a good example for other employees by valuing the important bonds parents build with their children in those early days which is the vital first steps towards building the adults of tomorrow. It highlights how much they value the community they are in and the children growing up around the corner from their offices. Giving employees extra financial support (which in turn usually means more time) to nurture the adults of tomorrow is a commendable thing. Especially given the fact that both economic and social returns on the bottom line of their annual accounts is negligible.

In these troubled times I hope we don’t forget how Britain allowed more women the financial freedom to stay home for longer. I hope that more businesses enhance their maternity leave entitlements so more children can get the best start in life with their mother (or father as we can now share the leave) at home for more of those precious early months of life.

Children North East is a charity and like many others of its kind has financial challenges and it does not need to offer the enhancements it does. So massive thumbs up to the Trustees for keeping up that support for their employees who become parents.

I don’t quite know how to thank Children North East for this precious gift of time and financial security they have given my new family. While I read many mum posts about worries of going back to work and plotting how to sack it off altogether, I am going to focus on how lucky I have been to have this time with my new baby. Thanks Children North East!

Kasia Kurowska