Last reviewed 9 July 2020

The House of Commons Petitions Committee has published what it is calling a landmark report on the impact of Covid-19 on maternity and parental leave.

It is the Committee’s job to examine e-petitions submitted online as well as paper petitions presented to Parliament. In this instance, more than 226,000 people signed an e-petition calling for the Government to extend maternity leave by three months with pay in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

MPs on the Committee heard from new parents who have found that their jobs are at risk as they are unable to find childcare, from parents whose mental health has been severely affected, and from parents who are desperate for help and support.

The 100-page report (available at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5801/cmselect/cmpetitions/526/526.pdf) finds that there are many more areas where the Government needs to consider taking urgent action.

The Petitions Committee has said that it expects to receive a prompt response from the Government on this urgent issue.

Recommendations made in its report include that the Government should:

  • extend parental leave and pay for all new parents affected by the pandemic, including maternity leave, shared parental leave and adoption leave

  • publish clear new guidance for employees and employers on supporting pregnant employees and those returning from parental leave that clearly explains their options and responsibilities

  • 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

  • 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.

Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer

Some employers may find that an extension to the usual parental leave entitlement could have an unfavourable effect on them; depending on how the Government implement this, if at all, employers may be faced with a consequential shortage in their workforce for longer.

Still, before a concrete decision can be made on the proposed actions in the report, employers will have to wait for further clarification from the Government. This is not to say that plans cannot be made now for any possible future outcomes.