Government considers measures to protect new mothers’ finances after 220,000 sign petition

The Government is exploring measures to help new mothers financially, after more than 220,000 people signed a petition calling for paid maternity leave to be extended by three months in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tens of thousands of new mothers and pregnant women have written to the Government about issues such as being singled out for redundancy, being asked to work in unsafe conditions and having to leave their jobs because they are unable to find childcare. 

Their concerns were raised yesterday in a parliamentary evidence session. Catherine McKinnell, MP and chair of the petitions committee, said the campaign had seen a record amount of engagement and urged the Government to address petitioners’ problems. 

Paul Scully, minister for small business, said that while the Government was not looking to extend maternity pay at the moment, it was considering other measures to help new parents. 

It is exploring what more could be done for self-employed mothers in particular, many of whom have been shortchanged on the emergency grants they have received, he said. These are calculated based on average profits over the past three years, meaning that mothers who took a career break after the birth of a child would receive much less. 

The Government is also bringing forward reforms to extend redundancy protections for new mothers for six months after they return to work, Mr Scully said, although he did not not give a time frame. 

He also confirmed that pregnant women unable to go into work because of health and safety concerns should be suspended on full pay by their employer. Many have reported being forced to take unpaid leave or statutory sick pay while they have been self-isolating and unable to come into work.

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