PREGNANT front-line firefighters are being forced to put their unborn babies at risk due to woeful maternity pay, FBU conference heard.
Fire Brigades Union national women’s committee’s Louise Connell told delegates yesterday that poor maternity pay is leading to “increasing numbers” of pregnant firefighters working longer than they should.
She warned: “Our sisters are finding it difficult to disclose if they’re pregnant, putting them and their child at risk.”
Ms Connell recognised a maternity leave “lottery” at fire and rescue services across the country, which have “extreme” differences in financial provision.
Where basic or statutory minimum pay is provided, women lose 10 per cent of their pay as soon as they start maternity leave.
New mothers see a further 40 per cent cut in their pay just six weeks later before going onto half pay for the rest of their maternity leave, usually 13 weeks.
Ms Connell noted that, while being pregnant is not the same as sickness, those who are sick receive six months on full pay.
However she accepted that several fire and rescue services have negotiated improved packages for pregnant staff.
Scotland delegate Seona Hart told conference of her experience going through a pregnancy on statutory maternity pay.
“Finances took a huge hit while the pressure on me to return to work was massive,” she said. “I was physically exhausted.”
Delegates called on the union to push for improved financial packages for maternity leave that gives at least 13 weeks on full pay.
Conference also agreed to send a questionnaire to fire and rescue services covering key areas of concern to female firefighters including family planning, pregnancy, maternity leave and returning to work.