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9 September, 2020 Open access

Commons Petitions Committee ‘extremely disappointed’ at government’s rejection of its recommendation to extend paid maternity leave in light of COVID-19 pandemic

Delivering government's response, Minister says current arrangements are 'sufficiently generous' to cater for wide variety of circumstances including lockdown

The Chair of the House of Commons Petitions Committee Catherine McKinnell has said she is 'extremely disappointed' at the government's rejection of the Committee's recommendation to extend paid maternity leave in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Following an e-petition to extend maternity leave with pay by three months in light of COVID-19 - which received almost a quarter of a million signatures - the Petitions Committee undertook an extensive inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on maternity and parental leave, publishing its report in June 2020.

Having heard 'compelling evidence' from new parents, mental health and psychology experts, and representatives from the childcare sector, the Committee made a series of recommendations, including to extend parental leave and pay for all new parents affected by the pandemic.

However, in correspondence accompanying the government's response, Business Minister Paul Scully said - 

'With regard to the recommendation that relates to the subject matter of the petition, having carefully considered the evidence that is available, we are still not persuaded that there is a need to extend entitlements to paid maternity leave at this time. There are a number of reasons for this, the most pertinent of which is that we still believe that the current arrangements for maternity leave and pay are sufficiently generous to cater for a wide variety of circumstances that expectant and new mothers may find themselves in—including during lockdown.'

Expressing 'extreme disappointment' with the government's response, Ms McKinnell said today -

'In this response, the government have not only outright rejected a plea for maternity leave to be extended amidst the pandemic, but have also turned down a whole range of entirely reasonable, and detailed, proposals that would have lessened the impact of this terrible pandemic on new parents.

The notion that current government support to new parents during the pandemic is sufficient, when a quarter of a million people affected have signed this parliamentary petition, ignores the distressing reality expressed by many.

This response simply fails to follow the science, and will come as a hammer blow to new parents across the country who need real targeted support now.

The Petitions Committee will now push for a debate on this issue as soon as possible. Members from across the House can put their concerns on this matter directly to the government on behalf of petitioners.'

For more information, see Committee express disappointment at government response to its report on impact of COVID-19 on maternity and parental leave from