Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell has challenged the Prime Minister on the Government’s failure to protect mothers returning from maternity leave from unfair redundancies.
At a Committee hearing in Parliament, Catherine told the Prime Minister: “the current crisis has put new parents, particularly mothers, at risk of redundancy” and reminded him: “two years ago, the Government announced it would extend redundancy protection for new mothers returning to work by six months so when is this going to happen?”
The Prime Minister failed to answer the question, instead commenting: “I can’t give you the answer to that particular payment but what I can certainly tell you is that at the moment, the problem is not so much a shortage of jobs or a lack or vacancies, the problem is a shortage of labour, and that is what we need to fix.”
Catherine further challenged the Prime Minister, telling him: “That doesn’t stop women returning from maternity leave being made redundant. One in nine are currently, and are awaiting Government legislation on it.”
Following the session, Catherine commented:
“Even before the pandemic, too many pregnant women and new mothers faced discrimination in the workplace. The Petitions Committee I chair in Parliament published a report that revealed an urgent need for the Government to review how new parents are supported. Unfortunately, the Government chose to reject our recommendations.
“Worryingly, evidence suggests that discrimination against pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace has been on the rise during the pandemic.
“I was disappointed that the Prime Minister couldn’t tell us when redundancy protections for new mothers would finally be brought forward, despite the Government’s pledge on this issue. The Government’s own research found that 1 in 9 new mothers had been sacked or made redundant when they returned to work or felt forced out of their job. We were promised action two years ago, there’s been enough delay, the Prime Minster must now take prompt action to improve redundancy protections for pregnant women and new mothers.”
- In July 2019 the Government announced that it would extend redundancy protection for six months after the return to work: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pregnant-women-and-new-parents-to-get-enhanced-redundancy-protections
- The Employment Bill, which was meant to bring in these changes, was not included in this year’s Queen’s Speech, which sets the Government’s agenda for the rest of the Parliamentary session.
- Last year the Petitions Committee, which Catherine Chairs published a report based on evidence from new parents, mental health and psychology experts, and representatives from the childcare sector that revealed an urgent need for the Government to review how new parents are supported. It made a number of recommendations, including bring forward mental health support for new parents and implementing the promised redundancy protections, but the Government rejected the report’s recommendations.