Baby on Board: Real life pilot maternity stories
As BALPA launches the “Baby on Board” campaign to seek enhanced maternity pay for pilots, these women in the profession tell us their maternity stories:
Pilot A: Considered terminating a pregnancy.
Following a recent routine appointment, my GP told me she suspected I was pregnant, and I was referred for an ultrasound. In the week between the shock announcement and the scan, my boyfriend and I started planning what we would/could do. We were excited, and very much want children at some stage, but hadn’t planned on it happening so soon! However, upon researching maternity pay, we were horrified to discover we would have to move out of the home we are renting, if I were to have the time off after pregnancy that we desired.
Ultimately we found ourselves debating whether it would be better to keep the baby and move out of the home we have just settled in to, desperately saving every penny we could in the next nine months and relying on help from parents OR have an abortion and spend a few years figuring out a financial plan that would enable us to keep our home, remain financially independent and raise a family with the time off from work we both desire.
Fortunately, the scan proved it was a false alarm. Nevertheless, many tears were shed, and I still don’t know what the best thing to do would be: lose our home and deal with a 90% pay cut, or terminate the pregnancy. An improvement to the maternity package could prevent others from facing such a situation in future.
Pilot B: Poor maternity offering is putting women off
I’m about to return to work after having my first child. When I joined BA my husband and I realised that starting a family would need to wait until a substantial amount of money could be saved to cover my earnings lost during maternity leave. Between us we saved over £15,000 to ensure I could take the full year off with our son.
We’re now starting to look to the future and unfortunately will need to start the process of saving again before even thinking about having another child. The extreme drop in pay to statutory maternity pay has been a barrier to us extending our family when we wanted to. It has added a lot of pressure to our home situation and changed the path of many of our life decisions.
I went to an all-girls school and despite having no encouragement from them decided to follow my dream of becoming a pilot. I went back and spoke to a few students before I was pregnant to tell them how much I enjoyed my job. If I went back again, I would definitely still say the same but would have to answer honestly if they asked about family life. The current maternity package does not encourage women into aviation and in my case is stopping me from having the freedom to start a family when I am ready.
Pilot C: having a baby is ‘simply unaffordable’
I joined BA on the FPP cadet scheme. To finance my training, I took out a £90,000 loan (to cover a training bond of £84,000 plus living expenses for two to three years). My monthly repayments are currently £1,062, and this could go up as it varies with the Bank of England base rate (it previously peaked at £1,350).
I am fortunate that the FPP scheme includes a monthly training bond repayment that covers most of my loan. I believe that this payment is based on continued employment with BA and would therefore continue through maternity. However, BA only refunds the basic training bond cost, excluding living expenses and interest. This will leave me with approximately a £20,000 shortfall, and nearly two years of loan repayments not met by BA, very affordable in full-time employment. However, the statutory maternity provision is less than half my loan repayment.
As a result, despite being on the official BA training scheme, I could end up nearly £600-850 per month in deficit (before rent/bills/childcare) should I take maternity leave during that time. This is simply unaffordable, and I don’t believe is adequate recognition from BA that pilots incur significant financial penalties in order to obtain a licence, and will still be feeling the effects nearly 10 years later.
Pilot D: Putting baby plans ‘on hold’
At present, I am having to put any plans of pregnancy on hold due to trying to buy a house with my partner. As I am the breadwinner in our family my mortgage is dependent on my last six months’ salary. Due to the fact we don’t have [an enhanced] maternity package therefore if I were to get pregnant, I would have to return straight back to work to enable a mortgage. This will also be an issue when I do have a child as again, we will need my salary. Therefore, I will return straight back to work after the six weeks.
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