LONDON (Within the Law) - Should MPs get six months of paid maternity leave? Only if they are Cabinet Ministers. That’s the message from a new bill being rushed through parliament. It was quickly put through to allow the Attorney General Suella Braverman to keep her post after having a baby. However, the new rights would only apply to Cabinet ministers.
The news has caused an outcry from MPs who are outraged at the idea of cabinet ministers being given more rights than regular MPs. Labour MP Stellar Creasy who revealed that she is six weeks pregnant is threatening to take the government to court over the move. Speaking to the Guardian, she revealed that it was ‘terrifying’ to hear that she was in the early stages of pregnancy especially as she has a history of miscarriage.
Learning that the new law would make better maternity rights a perk of promotion ‘like a company car’ had, she said, compelled her to speak out.
The government hopes the bill will pass swiftly with support from Labour. However, the bill’s tight focus means it only gives new rights to Secretaries of State and means Cabinet ministers will enjoy much better treatment than the general population or their own parliamentary colleagues.
Creasy pioneered a system of having a ‘locum MP’ continue her constituency work while she was having her baby. However, she had to fight for the funding and has been the only MP to secure such funding.
The new law is certainly a strange one and appears tailored to suit just one person. Creasy says she has received legal advice which suggests this might breach human rights laws, of a right to equal treatment and the right to a family life.
Although she stresses that she does not begrudge Braverman her maternity leave, she does feel that she has been discriminated against as a backbench MP.
“There’s no difference between myself and the attorney general in terms of the impact of having a baby on you,” she said. “We are in an environment where thousands of pregnant women are facing risks in the workplace, including the risk of the loss of their job. The message that we’re sending is that we treat maternity leave like a benefit, like a company car. In other words, only paid maternity leave for management.”
Labour has said it will support the bill but has raised concerns.
Cat Smith, Shadow Minister for democracy said: “The speed with which the government is acting to make sure the attorney general can take maternity leave is in stark contrast to its failure to support pregnant women facing discrimination and hardship throughout this pandemic.”
Campaigners, meanwhile, have also pointed out that the government’s treatment of one of their own stands in stark contrast to ordinary people.
The TUC warned that the bill risked creating a two-tier system and had implications for worker rights, while numerous other organisations have called for its scope to be wider. As highlighted in a report from the union one in four pregnant women report being discriminated against because of their pregnancy. Women are much more likely to lose their jobs as a result of being pregnant than men.
Fortunately for Braverman, that’s not a stat she needs to worry about. Unfortunately for everyone else, the government seems set to make her a special case.
(Written by Tom Cropper, edited by Klaudia Fior)