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Stella Creasy Says Lack Of MP Maternity Cover Forced Her To Work From Her Hospital Bed

Stella Creasy brought her baby daughter into the Commons in June 2020 (Alamy)

5 min read

Exclusive: Labour MP Stella Creasy said parliament should be “ashamed of itself” for failing to offer full maternity cover for MPs, meaning she has been forced to work in the two weeks since her son was born.

The Walthamstow MP was able to hire a locum MP following the birth of her first child in 2019 under a trial scheme approved by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

But Creasy was told that this would not be an option for her second child, and her request to hire an additional senior staff member to support constituency duties in her absence was denied.

She also discovered that her staff would not be able to undertake all her duties in her absence, such as attending meetings with ministers, meaning Creasy was required to work while she was on leave. 

“Even though it is actually technically illegal to ask a new mother to work in the first few weeks post-birth, I have been working," she told PoliticsHome.

"In fact, I was taking part in calls with the ministers on the hospital bed.

“Less than 24 hours after I'd had major surgery I was on a phone call to Ben Wallace, hoping that the baby wouldn't shout in the middle of my question, because if I hadn't done that we wouldn't have been able to ask questions of him.”

She continued: “IPSA have not done any preparatory work at all on this, they haven’t got any evidence basis for the decisions that they’ve made. They’ve got their own prejudices.”

Creasy announced her pregnancy in the Commons in February, speaking during a debate on the Ministerial and other Maternity Allowances Bill.

The legislation was introduced to ensure attorney general Suella Braverman, and future cabinet members, could take paid maternity leave.

Previously, there were no arrangements in place for ministers to take parental leave, and they were expected to resign instead.

The legislation was rushed through in February to ensure it came into effect in time for the arrival of Braverman’s child, and only focused on provisions for Cabinet members. 

Braverman’s duties were covered in full by Conservative MP Michael Ellis during her absence. 

Creasy warned the legislation risked creating a “two-tiered system” in Parliament while no such arrangement was available for backbench MPs.

She called for new measures to be introduced to ensure all MPs got access to like-for-like cover following the birth of their child, and received assurances from paymaster general Penny Mordaunt that the government would consider the issue. 

In a note to Creasy in February, seen by PoliticsHome, the Mordaunt said the government intended to “present a report to Parliament setting out considerations and proposals” and that it would “in any event update Parliament before the summer recess”.

However, the Labour MP said she had not received any information from the government regarding the issue since that letter. 

“My son is now directly suffering the consequences of it, because I am not prepared to let my constituents down. My staff have been through a horrendous experience with the Afghan crisis, as have lots of other MP staff, but they've not had me there full time,” she said.

“All of this I lay directly at the feet of IPSA, that they have made the worst of all worlds for my staff, for my son, for my family, for my personal health.”

“They're pretty oblivious to all their responsibilities to the thousands of brilliant women and men who might want to go into politics, but are thinking: is it possible to combine that with family life?”

Creasy added that the current arrangements “sends a terrible message that the place that makes the laws on employment rights doesn't uphold them".

In a statement, IPSA said it was “committed to supporting a more family-friendly Parliament and enabling MPs to fulfil their parliamentary duties while maintaining their family life”.

It added that it had increased the funding available from £50,000 per year to £60,000 per year, pro rata, and made available a new job description for MPs to employ an additional senior member of staff.
“The new parental leave provisions allow for a staff member to support the MPs’ constituents and fulfil all possible duties during the absence of the MP,” 
“The UK does not recognise the term ‘locum MP’. Constitutionally no-one can take on the full roles and responsibilities of a Member of Parliament, who is an office holder elected by the general public.”

A government spokesperson said: “Maternity arrangements for MPs and salaries are a matter for IPSA, which is independent of Government.

"The government will continue to support IPSA on their work on maternity provisions and the issues that we are all seeking to address. Its independence will be respected in line with its statutory footing.

They added that the Government had brought forward a motion in September 2020 to put proxy voting for new mothers and fathers, which was agreed unanimously by the House of Commons.

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