This study reports the results of small strain finite element analyses undertaken to determine the rate of displacement of skirted foundations subjected to uplift loading, due to combined swelling and seepage. Compatibility of foundation movement with cumulative seepage of water into the skirt compartment is modelled using a layer of soft poroelastic material immediately below the foundation top plate. Performance of the model is first assessed for a range of stiffness values for the soft layer. The model is then used to investigate the rate of displacement for skirt depths ranging from 0.1 to 1 times the foundation diameter. The results are compared with available theoretical solutions and experimental results, and expressions are provided for calculating the equivalent seepage lengths and resulting uplift velocities. The effect on the seepage behaviour of the presence of a gap down the external skirt-soil interface is also discussed. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.