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Parliamentary committee is investigating how new parents have missed out after hundreds of thousands sign petition
An influential committee of MPs has called on the government to extend the amount of leave available to new parents as the nation emerges from lockdown.
Over 200,000 parents have signed a petition on the UK parliament website backing a proposal to add three months extra to the current entitlement.
The committee’s latest report states that, “The request from petitioners to extend maternity leave is not a request for some extra time off from work in order to relax at home or go out and enjoy the summer. It is a request for time to do all the things that have been impossible while parents and children have been isolated at home. It is a request for time to adjust back to the realities of working life. It is a request for time to do the things needed to help get life back to normal, including accessing childcare, introducing new babies to families and friends, and attending baby classes. And, it is a request for time to get the support many have missed out on, from health visitors, mental health services, dentists and doctors.”
The increased leave could be taken as either maternity leave or shared parental leave.
The petition was first posted in April and it had attracted 100,000 signatures in 24 hours. That made the issue eligible for a debate in parliament. However the cross party petitions committee decided to investigate further before scheduling a debate. 70,000 mums and dads shared their experience of parenting during the lockdown after the petition committee put out a call for evidence.
According to the report published this week many parents are struggling with childcare issues in particular. They are unable to call on informal help from grandparents. And a number of parents said they would be unable to return to work after the pandemic because they had missed out on support and were unclear about childcare options going forward. A number of mums and dads also reported mental health issues due to the uncertainties and pressures unleashed by the Covid crisis.
The government has so far refused to grant extra leave for new parents. In response to the committee it pointed out that UK paternity and maternity provision is currently among the most generous in the world.
Committee chair Catherine McKinnell, said, “This pandemic is having a huge impact on families and it is clear from the evidence we have taken the huge additional challenges this crisis has presented for many people on maternity, parental and adoption leave,” she said.
“The government must urgently provide much needed additional support for new parents to prevent the effects of the pandemic having a lasting and damaging impact for years to come.”