Petitions Committee Chair disappointed in Government's failure to respond urgently to report on the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave

Torso of a pregnant person in a burgundy dress, with hands on baby bump
04 August 2020

Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, has criticised the Government for failing to meet the Committee’s request to respond urgently to its report on the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave, which was published earlier this month.


In a letter from Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, the Government stated that a response to the report from his department would not be possible before the House rose for Summer Recess on 22 July, due to the need for consideration of recommendations and discussions with other departments.

Read the letter from the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets


The Chair of the Petitions Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, has sent a letter to the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets in reply, noting the Petitions Committee's disappointment that the Government did not respond urgently to the report before summer recess.

Read the letter from the Chair of the Petitions Committee to the  Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets


Chair of the Petitions Committee has said: 

"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."


In its report, the Committee found that the Government needed to urgently review how new parents are supported during the crisis, after thousands of petitioners raised concerns about the dangerous impact the pandemic is having on their children’s development and their own mental health.

The Committee’s report came 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 received over 69,000 responses to its online surveys and Facebook post, with people sharing their experiences and views on the Government’s response and the actions they think need to be taken.


Key findings and recommendations made in the Committee’s report include:

  • New parents have missed out on crucial support, the lack of which could have a huge impact on their mental health and that of their children, with resulting impacts on the NHS and the UK economy;
  • The Government should extend parental leave and pay for all new parents affected by the pandemic. This includes maternity leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave;
  • The Government should publish clear new guidance for employees and employers on supporting pregnant employees and those returning from parental leave that explains clearly their options and responsibilities;
  • The Government should consider extending the period in which pregnant women and new parents may bring claims before the employment tribunal to 6 months from dismissal in light of current challenges posed by Covid-19;
  • Free dental care is an important benefit that most pregnant and new mothers have been unable to access as the result of the pandemic. The Government should extend maternity dentist provision for new and expectant mothers affected by the pandemic for at least six months;
  • The Government should review the provision of health visitor services in light of Covid-19 and consider funding increased numbers of health visitors and other allied professionals, to ensure that vulnerable families are identified and given the support they need;
  • The Committee strongly urges the Government to follow the science and stay alert to how the Government supports new parents so that the effects of the pandemic do not continue to impact families for years to come


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