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Maternity Leave

Volume 450: debated on Monday 16 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many women have taken paid maternity leave in each of the last 20 years. (93472)

Take-up of paid maternity leave is not recorded centrally. It is possible to make an estimate of the numbers of women taking maternity leave based on employer returns to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs of the statutory maternity pay (SMP) they recover (from 2003 this covered the first 26 weeks of leave and has recently been extended to 39 weeks in respect of births due from 1 April 2007). On this basis around 300,000 women currently receive SMP each year, which compares with around 280,000 women in 1998, the first year for which consistent data are available in the following table.

SMP recipients

1998-99

281,100

1999-2000

272,600

2000-01

267,100

2001-02

269,500

2002-03

285,800

2003-04

299,700

Source: DWP

In addition, there will be some women who will qualify for maternity leave but not SMP (because they do not meet the earnings or length of employment criteria for SMP) and similarly some who qualify for SMP but not leave (because they are employed earners for the purposes of SMP but not employees in order to qualify for leave).

Furthermore employers may offer occupational maternity pay and leave schemes over and above the statutory minimum. Results from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relations Survey indicated that 57 per cent. of all workplaces offered some degree ofpaid extra-statutory maternity leave.