Government rejection of maternity extension petition 'a mockery'

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Image source, Kirsty Pearce
Image caption,
Kirsty Pearce said her son, Jake, has developed separation anxiety and doesn't like anyone else to hold him

A mother who says her son developed separation anxiety due to coronavirus restrictions has called a government decision to reject proposals to extend maternity leave "a mockery".

Small Business Minister Paul Scully said the three months increase was not necessary as current arrangements are "sufficiently generous".

He was responding to House of Commons Petitions Committee recommendations.

Kirsty Pearce said the government "don't care about pregnant women".

Campaigners including Ms Pearce, from Harlow, Essex, say many new parents are facing mounting debts, childcare issues and mental health problems due to the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 270,000 people signed two separate petitions for parental leave to be extended by three months.

Currently, women can take a year's maternity leave and receive statutory pay for 39 weeks.

The government said it had no plans to extend the leave, but a Petitions Committee report recommended it should be extended.

Image source, Kirsty Pearce
Image caption,
The Petitions Committee will now scrutinise the government's decision on 6 October, but Kirsty Pearce said that will be too late for many mothers

In a written statement, Mr Scully has said the government was "still not persuaded that there is a need to extend entitlements to paid maternity leave".

Learning support assistant Ms Pearce had been meant to return to work at a primary school in June.

Instead she took unpaid leave to stay at home with her baby, Jake, as she was unable to find him a nursery place.

Social distancing put paid to hands-on support from family and friends, while baby groups and clinics closed their doors.

Ms Pearce said Jake developed separation anxiety as a result of not being able to socialise with anyone other than her.

She said the government's decision feels "like discrimination against women during one of the most vulnerable times of their lives".

"I really believe this can impact children for the future," she added.

"You just feel the government really don't care about pregnant women or those who have just had babies.

"The blanket no to each and every recommendation with a comment of 'look at what we have done though' is a mockery.

"Pregnant women and new parents have been abandoned by Boris Johnson."

Mr Scully said the government "recognise the sensitive nature" of the petition," but added: "We still believe the current arrangements for maternity leave and pay are sufficiently generous".

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