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Petitions Committee Chair 'extremely disappointed' over lack of urgent Goverment response to report on Covid-19 impact on maternity and parental leave

The Chair of Parliament's Petitions Committee has criticised the Government for failing to respond urgently to the Committee's report on the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave.

The Committee's report was published on 6 July 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 also received over 69,000 responses to online surveys and a Facebook post, where people shared their experiences and views on the action they would like to see the Government take.

The Committee had requested that the Government urgently respond to the report and review how new parents are supported during the Coronavirus pandemic, with thousands of people having raised concerns about the dangerous impact the pandemic is having on their children’s development and their own mental health.

However, the Government has not met the request to respond urgently. 

In a letter last week from Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, it was stated;

"Thank you for your report of 6 July 2020 which called for the Government to extend parental leave and pay for new parents in light of COVID-19 and made a number of recommendations. I know that you hoped to hear the Government’s views on this ahead of the House rising for summer recess on 22nd July, but I am afraid that this will not be possible."

"The Committee’s recommendations require careful consideration, and many of them fall outside of the Department for Busines, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s remit, in terms of policy and legislative responsibility. As such, it has been necessary for my officials to confer with their counterparts in the relevant Departments, and they in turn need to ensure that their own Ministers are fully appraised of the issues that parents have highlighted and the Committee’s recommendations on these."  

The Petitions Committee Chair, Catherine McKinnell MP has said today that she is "extremely disappointed" and has urged the Government to take action with urgency;

“I am extremely disappointed the Government hasn’t recognised the urgency of this issue and responded 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 our recommendations as a matter of urgency.”

The House of Commons rose for its summer recess on 22 July and is not expected to return until September. 

The report by the Petitions Committee follows three evidence sessions over the last few months on the impacts the coronavirus pandemic has had on maternity leave, maternal mental health, childcare, and adoption. Through the evidence sessions, the Committee heard from parents, mental health and psychology experts, representatives from the childcare sector and the Government.

Maternity and paternal leave is one issue that the Committee has looked at in detail during the Coronavirus pandemic. The Committee also published a report earlier this month looking at the impact of COVID-19 on universities and university students. 

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