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4 August, 2020 Open access

Select Committee repeats call for government to amend SMP earnings rules for pregnant workers wrongly sent home on SSP or unpaid leave during coronavirus crisis

Letter to Business Minister also expresses 'disappointment' that government has failed to respond to Committee’s recommendations before summer recess

The Petitions Select Committee has repeated its call for the government to amend statutory maternity pay (SMP) earnings rules for pregnant women who have been wrongly sent home on statutory sick pay (SSP) or unpaid leave during the coronavirus crisis.

In a letter to the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets Paul Scully, dated 3 August 2020, Committee chair Catherine McKinnell says the Committee is 'disappointed' that the government has not responded to its report on the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave before the summer recess, and calls for immediate action from the government, prior to its formal response, to comply with those recommendations that do not require further political agreement or cross-departmental work.

In particular, Ms McKinnell renews the Committee’s call for action to support pregnant workers who have missed out on SMP entitlement after being sent home without being furloughed or paid in full, noting that -

‘Our report highlighted that some pregnant women are wrongly being sent home on unpaid leave or SSP as a result of COVID-19, and some are missing out on their entitlements to SMP, in some cases, even maternity allowance ...

... we recommended amending the way SMP is calculated to disregard periods of unpaid leave or SSP where pregnant women were put on these incorrectly.’

In addition, Ms McKinnell calls for the government to urgently issue new guidance to employers on their obligations in respect of pregnant women who cannot safely socially distance at work, including that they have a right to be suspended on full pay if they cannot work safely. Highlighting that this should prevent further women's SMP entitlement being affected, Ms McKinnell also points out that urgent help will still be needed for those who have already been affected.

NB - Maternity Action has requested the same action in relation to the amendment of SMP calculation rules in a letter to the Work and Pensions Secretary dated 27 July 2020.

For more information, see Petitions Committee Chair disappointed in Government's failure to respond urgently to report on the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave from