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New mothers in Britain receive just six weeks of “decently-paid” maternity leave, putting the UK in a “relegation zone” when it comes to parental benefits, according to the TUC.

In a report published Friday, the union said that the UK is the third worst ranking country in Europe in terms of paid parental leave. Only mothers in Ireland and Slovakia have worse entitlement.

Under UK law, women can take a year of maternity leave and will get paid for 39 weeks of that.

The first six weeks is compensated at 90 per cent of their salary, but it then drops dramatically to just under £140 per week, which is below the national minimum wage, according to the TUC.

“Lots of parents here are forced back to work early to pay the bills,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady.

 “The UK is in the relegation zone when it comes to decently-paid maternity leave.”

Mothers in Croatia are entitled to six months of what the TUC considers decently-paid maternity leave, making them the most favourable country for parental benefits, followed closely by those in Hungary who can claim just over five and a half months.

The Czech Republic also Poland are also among the top four, with Estonia, Italy and Spain tying for fifth spot by offering 3.7 months of leave each.

Pay is deemed decent by the TUC if it is at least equivalent to two-thirds of a woman’s pre-maternity leave earnings, or at a rate of greater than £840 per month.

As a result of the UK’s poor ranking, the TUC is urging the Government to increase statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance to the same level as the minimum wage “so mums aren’t forced to go back to work before they’re ready”.

It is also urging an increase in shared parental pay and paternity pay.

“The TUC believes lack of money shouldn’t be the main factor in making decisions about who looks after a new baby,” it said.

Research from comparethemarket.com, based on 1,500 new and expectant parents, shows that parents are likely to spend £184 on their new-born every week.