The Financial Ombudsman service has received numerous enquiries from pregnant women claiming that they have been discriminated against by mortgage lenders.
According to the Financial Ombudsman, some pregnant women may be unfairly treated when they apply for a loan on a property with many saying they have been turned down as they are about to take time off work on maternity leave. The news comes after stricter lending criteria was brought in last year to ensure that people were only borrowing what they could afford to repay.
It is understandable that a mortgage lender will want to look at every applicants level of income and how maternity pay will affect affordability, but experts say that there is a clear lack of guidelines across the industry on how to treat women who usually work but are currently on maternity benefits. Many lenders differ in their attitudes to those on maternity leave and perhaps this adds to the feeling of discrimination for those turned down, when others are accepted elsewhere.
Currently different lenders employ very different calculations and approaches on maternity pay when considering how much they are willing to lend.
Some lenders will use your confirmed income at the time you ask to take out a mortgage, meaning if this is before you start maternity leave there should be no issues with your application.
It is also possible that if you're on maternity leave when you apply with the intention to go back to your job that a lender will assess your application using your normal income figures. Most lenders will only do this if you are returning to work within a certain time frame and they can confirm with your employer that you are returning to work.
Of course it's also possible that a mortgage lender will take into account maternity pay income if you apply whilst on maternity leave which could prevent you from being accepted.
Lenders may also expect you to demonstrate how you will afford the extra cost of bringing up a child and take this into account.
Chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman believes that being pregnant should not automatically stop you from taking out a mortgage and that each case should be judged on its own individual circumstances.
Wayman said: “It goes without saying that being pregnant should not automatically preclude you from taking out a mortgage, it does, though, pay to be realistic.”