Catherine calls for urgent action from Government on ‘profound impact’ of coronavirus on maternity leave

In a new letter published this morning, Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP has implored the Government to recognise the urgency of the effect of COVID-19 on maternity leave and new parents, and called on Ministers to respond to the Committee’s recent landmark report on the critical issue ‘before it’s too late’.

In correspondence last month from Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, the Government stated that a response to the Report from his department would not be possible before the House rose for Summer Recess on 22 July due to the need for careful consideration of recommendations and for discussions with counterparts in other relevant departments.

Now in a response to the Government, Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP urges the Minister to consider immediate action on several recommendations put forward by the Committee, and asks that the Government responds to the Committee’s report as soon as possible. The letter highlights that the issues raised in the Committee’s report have had a profound impact on parents now, with many being unable to wait until the autumn for a response.

In its landmark report, the Petitions Committee found that the Government needed to urgently review how new parents are supported during the crisis after thousands of petitioners raised concerns about the dangerous impact the pandemic is having on their children’s development and their own mental health.

The publication of the Committee’s report on 6 July came after more than 226,000 people signed an e-petition calling for the Government to extend maternity leave by 3 months with pay in light of Covid-19. The Committee received over 69,000 responses to its online surveys and Facebook post, with people sharing their experiences and views on the Government’s response and on the actions they think need to be taken.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, said:

“I am extremely disappointed the Government hasn’t recognised the urgency of this issue and at least responded in part to our report on the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave before the summer recess. This is particularly so given the Prime Minister’s recent personal commitment to review our report.

“Parents coming to the end of their leave are faced with a dreadful dilemma of having to prepare to return to work while they try to ensure that their child’s social and developmental needs are being met, at a time when finding suitable childcare is nearly impossible.

“Our investigation found some parents have even had to give up their jobs because there has been no financially viable way to extend their leave. This is having a profound impact on the mental health and wellbeing of families. New parents need clarity now on what support the Government will provide for them in the midst of this pandemic – this can’t wait until the autumn.

“I implore the Government to act on as many of our recommendations as possible before it’s too late, and have asked the Government to act immediately on several recommendations in particular that do not even require a change of policy.”

The report forms part of the Committee’s inquiry into the Government’s response to coronavirus. It follows three evidence sessions over the last few months on the impacts the coronavirus crisis has had on maternity leave, maternal mental health, childcare, and adoption, where the Committee heard from parents who had been directly impacted by the outbreak, representatives of the childcare sector, mental health and psychology experts, and the Government.

The new full letter to the Government can be found here. Download the full report from the Petitions Committee here.