MPs to debate the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave
1 October 2020
On Monday 5 October, MPs will debate a petition calling on the Government to extend maternity leave by three months with pay in light of COVID-19.
The petition, which has more than 238,000 signatures, states: “In light of the recent outbreak and lock down, those on maternity leave should be given three extra months paid leave, at least.
“This time is for bonding and social engaging with other parents and babies through baby groups which are vital for development and now everything has been cancelled.”
Responding to the petition, the Government said: “The UK’s Maternity Leave offer is already amongst the most generous in the World – up to 52 weeks of leave are available, 39 weeks of which are paid – and we currently have no plans to extend it.”
The debate follows the publication of the landmark report from the Petitions Committee on the impact of COVID-19 on maternity and parental leave in July.
The report was the result of an intensive inquiry, which heard from mental health and psychology experts, representatives from the childcare sector, and over 27,000 new parents. The investigation revealed an urgent need for the Government to review how new parents are supported during the crisis after almost a quarter of a million petitioners raised concerns about the dangerous impact the pandemic is having on their children’s development and their own mental health.
The Government’s response to the report rejected most of the recommendations of the Petitions Committee, stating “we believe that, for the vast majority of parents, the current arrangements have been sufficiently generous to cater for the variety of circumstances that new parents have found themselves in as a result of the pandemic.”
In light of the Government’s response, a number of charities and representatives of the early years sector have submitted additional written evidence to the inquiry.
The debate will last up to 90 minutes, and will provide opportunities for MPs to question a Government Minister directly on the issue. The debate will take place in Westminster Hall from 16:30, and will be available to view on Parliament TV. This will be the first petitions debate to take place in Westminster Hall since sittings there were suspended in March due to social distancing.
You can also follow the debate with the hashtag #maternitypetition