A quarter of a million people signed a petition calling for more parental leave in light of Covid-19. Government says no.
An influential committee of MPs has slammed the government for refusing demands for more paternity leave.
A petition asking for parental leave to be extended by three months with pay in light of the ongoing pandemic attracted nearly quarter of a million signatures. But the government has refused to bow to its demands.
With limited parliamentary time the Petitions Committee that oversees the petition process was unable to schedule a debate on the issue. That would’ve forced a minister to respond. Instead the committee conducted an intensive inquiry given the depth of interest in the topic. An online survey it set up received nearly 70,000 responses.
The inquiry involved new parents, mental health and psychology experts and representatives from the childcare sector. The committee says the investigation revealed an urgent need for the Government to review how new parents are supported during the pandemic. Witnesses cited concerns about the impact on children’s development and parents’ mental health.
The response, from the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, rejects most of the report’s recommendations. The official response stated “we believe that, for the vast majority of parents, the current arrangements have been sufficiently generous to cater for the variety of circumstances that new parents have found themselves in as a result of the pandemic.”
Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, said: “I am extremely disappointed at the Government’s reply to this report and their response to understandably anxious mothers and fathers across the country on this issue.
“In this response, the Government have not only outright rejected a plea for maternity leave to be extended amidst the pandemic, but have also turned down a whole range of entirely reasonable, and detailed, proposals that would have lessened the impact of this terrible pandemic on new parents.”
She added, “The notion that current Government support to new parents during the pandemic is sufficient, when a quarter of a million people affected have signed this parliamentary petition, ignores the distressing reality expressed by many.
“This response simply fails to follow the science, and will come as a hammer blow to new parents across the country who need real targeted support now.”
The Petitions Committee is expected to be able to schedule debates again next month. They are planning an urgent debate on this issue as soon as possible.