A campaign for money to be set aside to recognise that MPs have babies and need to go on maternity leave is growing in strength.
Last week MP Stella Creasy highlighted the lack of financial support to cover MPs on parental leave. The choice for MPs seemed to be to let things pile up and not reply to often urgent constituency demands, to get a sympathetic colleague in a neighbouring constituency to help – if they felt so inclined or to forego any time off with the baby.
It seems ridiculous that in this day and age MPs, who are supposed to set policy in this area, are effectively being denied any parental leave themselves. What kind of message does this give out generally and how can it help to encourage more women to stand for Parliament and make it more representative of the people it is supposed to serve?
Creasy also detailed her experiences of miscarriage and the lack of any time off to deal with the impact. Miscarriage is a neglected area. Many women – and men – are just expected to get on with things. I remember a colleague who had an early miscarriage and emerged from the toilet on one occasion in tears, saying she had just flushed her baby away.
Creasy’s article has drawn some nasty comments from the usual suspects, but mainly it has attracted a lot of support. An online petition was circulated by Pregnant Then Screwed and has gathered thousands of signatories. A letter is being sent to the IPSA board, the organisation does not officially recognise that MPs go on maternity leave, this week signed by a host of campaigners and organisations such as workingmums.co.uk, calling for MPs to be guaranteed six months’ parental and adoption leave through the allocation of sufficient budget to provide cover while they are away. While it recognises that MPs can make a contingency application for the cost of providing a locum, it says none of the 24 MPs who have given birth since IPSA came into being have used this, showing that it is “not fit for purpose”.
Workingmums.co.uk put out its own statement last week. It said: “Research study after research study shows the benefits of diverse workplaces where different points of view are represented. Parliament is responsible for providing the legal framework that drives diversity and democratic representation for all. It is therefore vital that it gets its own practice in order. We hope to see swift change in connection with IPSA’s policy on maternity leave alongside wider changes in Parliament to encourage more women to enter the profession.”
It may be hard to believe, given the outright dishonesty embodied by the current leadership campaign, but MPs are leaders. They should be enabled to set an example for employers and model the kind of policies they want to see others emulate.