Finding out you are going to be a parent and preparing to have a baby is the most thrilling time in your life – brainstorming names, picking nursery colours, and choosing the perfect pram are all things that mums-and-dads-to-be look forward to, leading up to the big moment when baby finally arrives.
But what about afterwards, during maternity leave, when the cost of this bundle of joy hits you at a point in time when your income is reduced?
The reality is, babies are expensive. On top of changing nappies, cleaning up spilled applesauce and those inevitable sleepless nights, the last thing any new parent should have to worry about is making ends meet.
So what do finances typically look like for a couple who have just welcomed a new addition?
Statutory maternity and paternity leave
Statutory maternity leave in the UK is a maximum 52 weeks, for which every employee is eligible as long as they provide their employer with the correct notice.
To qualify for pay during the time taken off, a woman must have worked at her job continuously for a minimum of 26 weeks up to the 15th week before the week of her due date, earning at least £112 per week.
Maternity pay is granted for up to 39 of the total 52 weeks:
- For the first 6 weeks of leave, entitlement is 90% of average weekly earnings before tax.
- For the following 33 weeks, entitlement is whichever is lower: either £139.58 per week or 90% of weekly earnings.
- The remaining 13 weeks (if taken) are unpaid.
This adds up to at least a 10% pay cut for the first 39 weeks, and then a 100% loss of income for the remaining time off.
For dads, if a father has worked for 26 continuous weeks prior to the 15th week before the due date and provided the correct notice, he is entitled to up to two weeks of paternity leave.
This applies to biological fathers, as well as adoptive parents, or intended parents in instances of surrogacy, and the husband or partner of the mother.
To qualify for paternity pay during this time he must also be employed up to the date of the birth and earn at least £112 per week before tax. Payment is whatever is lower between £139.58 per week and 90% of weekly earnings.
Newborn baby and newborn costs
While nothing can take away from the joy and excitement of finally meeting your newborn baby, there are expenses that inevitably arise. In addition to all the purchases made in preparation, there are plenty of ongoing items that need replenishing and replacing.
Experts estimate that staple items, including a cot, buggy, car seat and nursery furniture, can cost between £355 and £2,600, depending on whether you want to choose budget or more luxury options.
Necessary weekly and monthly purchases, including clothing, nappies, milk and food, can add up to between £900 and £3,500 annually. On top of this, there are additional items such as baby slings, toys, high chairs, monitors and bath accessories that most mothers need.
Figures will vary, depending on the support given by friends and family, as well as whether or not parents have children already and can reuse some items. However, there will always be something that comes up, and in total it estimated that the things a baby will need in his or her first year will cost upwards of £1,600.
Additional household costs
To add to the cost of things specifically for the baby, there are also general household expenses that arise during time on maternity leave.
The average cost of household energy in the UK, including gas and electricity, is about £1,200 per year. Factoring in the time a new mother spends at home, using utilities during the day, the cost of bills is likely to rise.
Depending on budget, it is likely that mothers will find they need to buy maternity clothes, with the average woman spending about £120 on new clothing and shoes. Parents might also find that, with a new family, they need more space and might have to think about purchasing a bigger vehicle or even adding an extension to the house.