The Government has rejected calls to extend parental leave and pay because of the coronavirus pandemic, stating that it would result in additional burden being placed on employers at a difficult time.
More than 200,000 signatures were recorded on an online petition calling for maternity leave and statutory maternity pay to be extended by three months, stating that this would allow parents and babies to socialise through playgroups, which is ‘vital for child development’ after they were not able to meet during lockdown.
The petition resulted in the Petitions Committee launching an inquiry into how new and expecting parents had been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, looking at mental health and speaking to psychology experts and representatives from the childcare sector.
The inquiry recommended that the Government should review how new parents are supported during the crisis.
In response, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy rejected the majority of the recommendations, stating: “The cost to the Exchequer of this support for parents runs to billions of pounds, which is ultimately funded by the taxpayer.
“The Committee’s analysis estimates that the cost of extending paid parental leave for three months would run to the high hundreds of millions of pounds.
“Providing additional weeks of statutory parental pay would also have a financial impact on employers who not only have to cover absence costs related to their employee being off work but also have to fund 8 per cent of the cost of statutory parental pay themselves (excluding small employers).
“These would be additional burdens on business at a time when many organisations are struggling to save their business and jobs.”
The Government also stated that it believes that the current arrangements, which include the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) for new parents returning from parental leave, are sufficient.
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