Har­man: Why our MPs should get baby leave

Sunday Sun - - News -

MPS should be given “baby leave”, which would al­low them to nom­i­nate col­leagues to cast House of Com­mons votes on their be­half while they are car­ing for their child, Har­riet Har­man has said.

The for­mer Labour deputy leader said MPs should also get six months’ paid leave, in line with the Civil Ser­vice, and be able to nom­i­nate a full-time paid “ma­ter­nity cover” rep­re­sen­ta­tive for their work out­side the Com­mons.

Ms Har­man pointed out that 17 ba­bies had been born to women MPs since 2010 and they had not ben­e­fited from a sys­tem of leave.

She has sub­mit­ted her pro­pos­als to the Speaker’s Com­mons Ref­er­ence Group on Rep­re­sen­ta­tion and In­clu­sion, which meets next week.

Be­fore a speech to women from across the north of Eng­land at a Labour event in New­cas­tle, Ms Har­man said: “Women have ba­bies - that is a fact of life.

“Women are in Par­lia­ment - that’s a demo­cratic im­per­a­tive.

“The baby needs time with the mother, the mother needs time with the baby and the con­stituency needs to be prop­erly represented at all times.

“We need a proper sys­tem of baby leave to square that cir­cle. It’s long over­due.”

She added: “The re­al­ity is you can­not be on call for your con­stituency or vot­ing when you are in labour.

“And you should not have to be on duty when your baby is only a few weeks/months old.

“But the con­stituency must have a rep­re­sen­ta­tive at all times. There needs to be a proper sys­tem of leave and cover.

“At the same time as the num­ber of women in Par­lia­ment has in­creased, the ex­pec­ta­tions of fa­ther­hood have changed.

“We have long ar­gued that fa­thers need the op­por­tu­nity to spend time with their new­born baby.

“Yet the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem it­self makes no ac­knowl­edge­ment that men MPs are also fa­ther­ing ba­bies and in­deed some male MPs carry on ‘busi­ness as usual’ when they have a baby.

“That is not ac­cept­able and Par­lia­ment needs to set a proper ex­am­ple on leave.

“Dur­ing my 35 years as MP I’ve had three chil­dren. Eigh­teen months’ leave for three ba­bies dur­ing 35 years’ work doesn’t seem too much to ask.”

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