Closed petition Extend paid maternity leave by at least four months

The Government should give anyone who is on maternity leave the right to at least four months additional leave, at full pay, because of the impact Covid-19 has had on new mothers and their children.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

56,988 signatures

Show on a map

100,000

Government responded

This response was given on 26 January 2021

Government has no plans to extend paid Maternity Leave. Existing Maternity Leave entitlements are among the most generous in the world, up to 52 weeks of leave are available of which 39 are paid.

Read the response in full

The Government recognises that new parents have faced new challenges in welcoming a child into their family during these unprecedented times. Maternity entitlements are provided to enable employed women to take time off work in the later stages of their pregnancy and after they have given birth in the interests of their own health and that of their unborn child or new baby. 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. The Government has previously responded to petition 306691, which sought to extend paid Maternity Leave by 3 months, and made clear then that there are no plans to extend maternity entitlements at the current time. Extending paid Maternity Leave would have significant costs to the Exchequer and employers.

We have put in place various measures to make things easier for parents and their employers in these challenging times including publishing clear guidance for:

• employees and employers on how to support parents returning from parental leave; and
• employers on their obligations regarding pregnant women who cannot safely socially distance at work.

We have also:

• made sure that childcare is available for parents returning to work (Early Years settings -including nurseries and childminders - remain open); and
• enabled employers to furlough parents who are unable to work due to childcare commitments.

We have put financial support for employees and businesses at the heart of the Government response to the pandemic. This has included the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and a package of welfare measures which the Office of Budget Responsibility estimates to be worth over £9bn. These measures have helped to protect incomes, jobs, and support those most in need.

The Government encourages employers to be as flexible as possible during this difficult time, to support those with childcare responsibilities. This includes:

• providing flexible working and home working arrangements; and
• considering requests from parents to be furloughed (which is at the employer’s discretion).

We understand that the experience of Maternity Leave during the pandemic may not have been what some pregnant women and new mothers were expecting. But we have necessarily had to introduce measures to help save lives and protect our NHS. To mitigate the impact of these measures on individuals we have:

• introduced support bubbles for people living on their own and for households of any size with a child under 1 or a child under 5 with a disability;
• introduced childcare support bubbles which enable parents to link up with one other household to allow friends or family to provide informal childcare to anyone under 14;
• allowed support groups for parents and children to continue in person;
• worked with representatives from the parent and child group sector to put guidelines in place to enable the sector to reopen when measures are eased;
• increased funding for mental health services; and
• ensured health visiting services could continue.

In addition, children under 5 are not counted towards the gatherings’ limit for exercising outside.

Health visitors continue to be the key link between the healthcare system and vulnerable under 1s and their families. General practice nurses have also continued to provide routine childhood immunisations. Whilst some public health nurses were redeployed at the onset of Covid-19, this was a temporary measure and we were able to offer a full service by the end of July 2020. The Chief Nurse and the Local Government Association have confirmed that Health Visitors will not be redeployed during the second wave. Local Authorities have been given more than £3 billion this financial year to commission public health services, including services for new parents and their babies.

The Government is committed to improving perinatal mental health services for new mothers and their partners. In November 2020, we brought forward the Wellbeing and Mental Health Support Plan for Covid-19, backed by £50 million, to set out the support available for individuals in the context of a second wave, and the winter months. This includes an additional £500 million in 2021/22 (announced in the Spending Review), to address waiting times for mental health services; give more people the mental health support they need; and invest in the NHS workforce.

The measures set out above were developed as part of the Government’s response to the pandemic and are in line with a number of the recommendations made by the Petitions Select Committee. The Government is committed to supporting all citizens, including parents, during this difficult time.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Other parliamentary business

MPs press the Government to address gaps in support for new mothers in new report

In their latest report, released on 26 February, MPs on the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee have recommended that the Government reviews the coverage of current Covid-19 support, including the furlough and SEISS schemes, to make sure that the greatest support is provided to those individuals facing most hardship, including new mothers, and that any gaps in provision are addressed. The Committee expects to see such measures in the upcoming Budget.

Read the report: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/4831/documents/48550/default/

Referencing the Petitions Committee's report on the Impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave, the BEIS Committee report describes mothers being discriminated against by virtue of having taken parental leave in the last three years as being a "particularly egregious example of the (Government's) failure to refine support".

Read the Petitions Committee's report on the Impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/1759/documents/17170/default/
Read the Government's response to our report: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/2186/documents/24746/default/

What is the BEIS Committee?

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee is a cross-party group of backbench MPs appointed to scrutinise the policy, spending and administration of the Government's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and its public bodies, including Ofgem, the Financial Reporting Council and the Committee on Climate Change.

Follow the BEIS Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work: https://twitter.com/CommonsBEIS

Share your experiences of maternal mental health during Covid-19

On Wednesday 10 March, Sarah Olney MP is leading a debate on maternal mental health.

In preparation for her debate, she wants to hear from those who have given birth in the last 18 months. Specifically, she wants to understand the impact of the pandemic on maternal mental health, and whether support services were effective.

She will use your insights to inform the case she puts to the Government, and may quote your story directly during her debate.

Find out more and share your experiences with Sarah here: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/maternal-mental-health/index.html

You’ll also be able to watch the debate from 2.30pm on Wednesday 10 March on that page.

The debate transcript and other relevant material will be available shortly after the debate.

The deadline for contributions is midday on Tuesday 9 March.

What are Westminster Hall debates?

Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Any MP can take part in a Westminster Hall debate.

Please note: Due to covid-19 measures, Westminster Hall debates were suspended from 14 January 2021. From Monday 8 March 2021, Westminster Hall proceedings will resume in hybrid form in a designated committee room. MPs will be able to take part virtually or in person.

Find out more about Westminster Hall debates: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/business/debates/westminster-hall-debates/

Stay informed

Follow the Petitions Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions

Sarah Olney MP reflects on petitioners' experiences during maternal mental health debate

On Wednesday 10 March, Sarah Olney MP led a Westminster Hall debate on maternal mental health. In advance of the debate, the public were invited to share their experiences of the issue.

Many people who signed this petition contributed their stories of how the pandemic had impacted their experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and what the effect had been on their mental health. Sarah quoted several contributors during her speech, and other MPs also referred to the contributions. Thank you to everyone who took part.

You can watch the debate, watch a thank you video from Sarah, and access other relevant resources here: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/maternal-mental-health/index.html

If you took part and contributed your story, please let us know how you found the experience here: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/YVAA1/

Share your experiences of maternity, parental leave and childcare during covid-19

MPs on the House of Commons Petitions Committee want to know what's changed for new parents one year on from their report into the Impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave, published in July 2020. 

The Committee is also considering how the pandemic has affected the cost and provision of childcare, in response to a petition calling for an independent review of childcare funding and affordability.

Share your experiences through this short survey: https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/8PXAU4/

The deadline for responses is 12noon on Monday 28 June. Your responses will be shared with the Committee to help inform their work on this issue. Your responses will be anonymous.

Read a summary of the Committee's report: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/how-has-maternity-and-parental-leave-been-impacted-by-coronavirus-/index.html

What is the Petitions Committee?

The Petitions Committee is a cross-party group of MPs appointed by the House of Commons to consider e-petitions and public (paper) petitions.

Find out more about the Petitions Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/membership/

Follow the Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions

Petitions Committee announce follow-up session on the impact of covid-19 on new parents

The Petitions Committee will hear from petition creators and expert witnesses on the impact of covid-19 on new parents and childcare providers on Wednesday 14 July.

Watch the session (on Wednesday 14 July from 9.30am): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lERhUe98ASU&feature=youtu.be

The evidence session marks one year since the publication of the Committee's report into the impact of covid-19 on maternity and parental leave.

Read a summary of the Committee’s full report: https://houseofcommons.shorthandstories.com/how-has-maternity-and-parental-leave-been-impacted-by-coronavirus-/index.html

The session will investigate what progress has been made against the problems identified and recommendations made to the Government in the report.

Witnesses include petition signatories, and representatives from campaign and sector bodies Pregnant then Screwed, the Early-Years Alliance, Adoption-UK and others. A full list of witnesses is available on the Petitions Committee website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/156378/committee-announces-evidence-session-on-the-impact-of-covid19-on-new-parents/

Survey on the impact of covid-19 on new parents

Last month, we asked you to share your experiences through an online survey to help inform the session. We also asked the experiences of Mumsnet users. Key findings from this engagement include:

  • Access to baby and toddler groups, which provide vital support for both parents and children, remains limited even as restrictions ease. 68% of respondents told us they strongly disagreed with the statement that “I have been able to access baby and toddler groups over the past 12 months”
  • 77% of respondents told us they strongly agree or agree with the statement that “The cost of childcare has prevented me from getting the kind of childcare I need”
  • 72% of respondents who said they ran or worked for a childcare setting told us they expected the pandemic to have a major or moderate effect on their setting’s long-term financial sustainability

You can read a full summary of what new parents and childcare providers told us on our website: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/37718/pdf/

What are evidence sessions?

Evidence sessions are open meetings with experts, officials or people with personal experiences with the topic being examined. Evidence sessions help select committees like the Petitions Committee to understand how laws and Government policies are working in the real world, and what needs to change to make things better.

Further information

Find out more about the role of the Petitions Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/role/

Follow the Committee on Twitter for real-time updates on its work: https://www.twitter.com/hocpetitions

Find out more about select committees: https://www.parliament.uk/about/how/committees/select/

New parents need a dedicated covid-19 recovery strategy, says Petitions Committee

On Thursday 7 October, the Petitions Committee published its report on the impact of covid-19 on new parents: one year on, which calls on the Government to publish a dedicated covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents.

Read the report (html): https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmselect/cmpetitions/479/47902.htm
Read the report (pdf): https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7477/documents/78447/default/

Key recommendations

In light of the pandemic’s ongoing impact on new parents, as set out in the report, and the need for a sustained focus from the Government to support this group, the committee’s new report recommends that the Government should publish a dedicated covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents, bringing together all Government actions to support this group, with a clear delivery plan.

Other key recommendations made in the report include calling on the Government to:

  • Provide additional funding and resources to allow catch-up mental health support for new parents impacted by covid-19 and accelerate planned capacity-building in perinatal mental health services
  • Fund local authorities in order to arrange in-person visits to new parents by the appropriate local authority, voluntary organisation, or health visiting staff by the end of the year
  • Review monitoring and enforcement activity relating to employers’ health and safety obligations to pregnant women
  • Legislate as soon as possible to introduce the planned extension of redundancy protections for new and expectant mothers
  • Commission a review into the funding and affordability of childcare, to consider how to provide greater financial security to the sector following the pandemic and ensure childcare provision meets the needs of new parents seeking to return to work

Find out more, including comment from Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/157932/new-parents-need-a-dedicated-covid19-recovery-strategy-says-committee/

Background

This new report follows the committee’s inquiry last year into the impact of covid-19 on maternity and parental leave, which found that “the impact of the pandemic on new parents and their children has so far not been given as much attention as it should have been”.

Read the report: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmpetitions/526/52602.htm

However, while the Government’s response to that report expressed sympathy with the position of expectant and new parents, it did not accept the committee’s recommendations on actions to address this impact.

What happens next?

The Petitions Committee have submitted the report to the Government for their consideration. Once it’s been received, the committee will publish the Government’s response on its website and notify petitioners.

Government's response to 'Impact of covid-19 on new parents' report delayed

The Government has told the Petitions Committee that their response to the Committee's latest report on the Impact of covid-19 on new parents will be delayed. The Government’s response was expected by 7 December, as the Government is expected to respond to all select committee reports within two months.

In a letter dated 13 December, Maggie Throup MP, a Minister in the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), says this is to allow time for the DHSC to coordinate with other departments on its response.

We will let you know once the Government's response has been received and published.

Read the letter: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/8265/documents/84382/default/

Find out more: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/159915/government-delay-in-responding-to-report-is-disappointing-says-chair-of-the-petitions-committee/

Chair of the Petitions Committee responds to delayed Government response

Commenting on the delay in responding to the Committee's report, Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said:

"I am disappointed the Government has failed to respond to our report on the impact of covid-19 on new parents on time. New parents, who have faced an accumulation of adversity during the pandemic, could be forgiven for seeing this delay as yet another sign that the Government is ignoring them.

"While I appreciate our report calls for coordinated action across Government, it is vital that Ministers provide a meaningful response to our constructive recommendations at the earliest opportunity, to ensure new parents are not let down any further."

The Petitions Committee's report on the impact of covid-19 on new parents

The Committee’s report, published in October, made a number of recommendations to the Government calling for better support for new parents and their babies, including for a dedicated covid-19 recovery strategy for new parents, and additional ‘catch-up’ mental health support.

Read the report [HTML]: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmselect/cmpetitions/479/47903.htm

Read the report [PDF]: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/7477/documents/78447/default/

Read the report summary: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmselect/cmpetitions/479/47903.htm

Read the report's conclusions and recommendations: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmselect/cmpetitions/479/47910.htm