The UK is among a growing number of countries that offer maternity leave as part of a universal basic income, and it has helped many women in their 20s to start families.
But while some countries are taking the lead, others have had mixed results, and have seen the number of women leaving the workforce drop.
The UK has taken a bold approach to offering paid maternity leave.
While other countries have introduced a minimum income for their employees, the UK is the only major developed country to offer an unconditional basic income.
A universal basic wage is paid to all citizens regardless of their level of education, gender, income or previous employment.
The scheme is being piloted in Scotland, and in Northern Ireland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a pilot scheme run by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
The aim is to see whether paid maternity and paternity leave can improve life for working mothers and dads.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which is in charge of running the scheme, says the UK has a very low level of maternal mortality in the first year of life and is among the most egalitarian countries in Europe.
“We think that there’s a need for more paid maternity Leave and paternity Leave,” says Katherine Kelly, director of policy at NICE.
“It is a big deal, and we’re delighted that we’re helping people get more of that.”
The scheme, which aims to be rolled out across the UK by the end of the year, will see a total of £4,600 paid for every month a mother and father work, plus £500 a week in paid parental leave.
The basic income would be paid to each person from £11,200 per year for women, and £13,500 per year to men.
The money would also cover any costs incurred by the parents and their child, such as childcare and transport.
But the scheme is not without controversy.
Some women say they are being paid less than men, who will now have to pay their own childcare costs.
The government has said the scheme would give women a pay rise over a decade, but Kelly says the figures are a far cry from the reality.
“The reality is that it’s not going to happen, because we’re trying to encourage people to work harder, and people are getting paid less for their hard work,” she says.
The National Centre for Social Research, which is working with NICE on the pilot, is looking at how to test the impact of the scheme on women and fathers. “
I think it’s going to be very important that it works for working women and men.”
The National Centre for Social Research, which is working with NICE on the pilot, is looking at how to test the impact of the scheme on women and fathers.
Its chief executive, Emma Lee, says it is important to look at whether the scheme can help improve the lives of working mothers.
“Some people may feel they are taking away a significant amount of time from the family life, but we do not want people to be frustrated, we want to help them find some time to care for their child,” she told the BBC.
“When they get back to work, they’ll have more time to do it.”
What if I have a baby now?
The NICE researchers are also looking at whether there is a link between paid maternity pay and childcare costs, as well as the effect of the programme on the economic wellbeing of mothers and fathers in the workplace.
They are also working with other social research groups, including the Women’s Foundation, to get a better understanding of how the scheme will impact women’s earnings.
What about if I’m on maternity leave?
NICE is also studying whether paid paternity leave will increase the likelihood of mothers having a child later on in life.
“You can see that women are more likely to have a child if they’re on paternity leave,” says Kelly.
“And we think that when you have a family, that mother will have a more important role in their child’s life.”
We know that women who have been in paid paternity leaves have a lower probability of having a second child, so that’s why we’re looking at it.
“A range of experts, including economists and policy experts, have warned against giving the scheme a try, saying the scheme could cause a backlash against working women.
One prominent economist, Mark Carney, has warned that women might have to move back to the house or job to raise their children, while another, Professor Sally Fallon, has argued that maternity leave would not reduce the number who choose to have children in the long term.
The NITE study is currently underway.
It is hoped that the scheme’s first phase will start to roll out across England by the autumn.
“My sense is that this is going to prove quite difficult. “
That’s a big, big gamble,” she said.
There is a great deal of money being spent on this, but it’s really difficult to know what it