Extending Maternity Leave: Letter to MPs - Happity Blog

Extending Maternity Leave: Letter to MPs

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Please delete/keep paragraphs as relevant to you. Definitely keep the £8.1bn paragraph as this is key for MPs!

There is a section asking them to sign the EDM – please check on the link whether they have already – if they have I would instead thank them for doing so and ask them to continue to fight for families. Front benchers in all parties cannot sign, so worth checking that too – but if you’re unsure best to ask them as they wouldn’t expect you to know that I’m sure!

Subject: Women and Children are not a Luxury – Please sign EDM to extend maternity leave for the sake of the next generation

Dear {insert MP name},

Re: Extending Maternity Leave

My name is {insert your name} and I am writing as part of the #MaternityPetition campaign regarding the impossible situation I find myself in as a new parent due to Covid-19.

I had my baby in {insert month} and I am due back to work in {insert month}. Due to Covid-19 my baby has missed out of bonding with wider family, developing and socialising at baby classes, and from having the parents I wished them to have due to the stress Covid-19 has put on me both due to anxieties and isolation, and due to the uncertainty for our future.

Women and children are not a luxury

Mothers and children might seem a luxury to invest in given the challenges our economy and services face. But enabling this major section of society to function effectively will have a large effect on society, the economy, and services more widely than just the narrow experience of mums and babies in the short term.

Thousands of mothers across the UK are finding themselves in an impossible situation impacting their employment, their babies development, and their own mental health.

Even before Covid-19, up to one in five parents were suffering from a perinatal mental health illness, which often leads to a lack of parent-child bonding, and poor interaction (eye contact and touch). Research suggested that poor bonding, and high stress for babies and toddlers can have a knock-on life-long impact, causing subdued-ness or over-activity in toddlers, and then anxiety in teenage girls and aggression in teenage boys due to underlying effects on the development of learning and memory, stress and emotional responses. There has been links to obesity.

The cost of perinatal mental health was already estimated to be £8.1bn per year per cohort. That figure for this cohort of babies is going to be significantly higher. And with 70% of this cost attributed not to the mother’s recovering, but to supporting their child throughout their life, this is something we need to investigate financially if not morally.

Please sign the EDM – https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/56967/campaign-to-extend-maternity-leave-by-three-months – so that this can be discussed seriously in Government as soon as possible.

It is widely acknowledged that the early days and months of a baby’s life are hugely important to their cognitive, physical and emotional development. Many children affected by lockdown has missed out on crucial check-ups with health visitors, bonding time with wider family, and having a health happy family around them.

Lockdown has placed enormous strain on parents with many reporting a deterioration in the mental and physical health. And as Dr Alain Gregoire, the chairman of Maternal Mental Health Alliance, highlighted in the second House Of Commons Petitions Committee, having a parent struggling with mental health is detrimental to a babies development.

Many new parents are being forced to return to work without childcare, or juggle work with home-schooling multiple children. Whilst others have no choice but to take unpaid leave or leave employment entirely – adding financial stress at an already difficult time.

With many employer facing uncertain futures with redundancies likely, many women on maternity leave are feeling vulnerable, rolling back decades of advances to support working mothers.

And it’s only set to get worse. From 10th June if a mother hasn’t been furloughed, she no longer can be. So even for those whose employers are able and willing to furlough them, that option will be removed. So she will have the option to return, leaving her child at a nursery that perhaps might be taking new children by then, or to resign.

But mothers are feeling incredibly anxious about leaving their children at nursery, should places become available, as their child won’t have seen other people for months, with many reporting their children crying whenever they see another human face or hear another voice.

A recent review of the psychological impacts of quarantine found that stress, anxiety and anger were the most common symptoms that people suffered with, post-quarantine. Particularly, some studies found that the female gender and having children were characteristics associated with a higher risk of experiencing psychological difficulties during quarantine.

The Maternity Petition, asking for 3 months of extension to Maternity Leave with Statutory Maternity Pay had over 220,000 signatures and a record 25,000 comments on the House of Commons Facebook page. There has been two hearings, with evidence from many experts, and on June 11th it is due to be discussed in Parliament.

Extending maternity leave would cost significantly less than furlough – only £1965.60 per family compared to potentially £7,500 on furlough, and would provide a lifeline for those parents who cannot be furloughed due to being key workers, or because the employer isn’t willing to.

And some employers want this too. Whilst they wanted to remain anonymous, some have said they would prefer to furlough returning mothers, with the hope of having them return in October when business picks up. But without the option of furlough they will have to make them redundant on return as they simple can’t afford to keep them. This will hurt the families, but also the business who will then need to go through recruitment again in a few months, which can be a very costly process.

This is about investing in the future, and time is running out. Supporting parents at this difficult time makes economics sense because not doing do risks storing up devastating (and expensive) problems for the future.

For my babies sake, give us back the time we have lost to enable proper bonding with a parent not struggling mentally, and with wider family. Give us back the time to enable our babies to develop. Give us back the time so that we can fix ourselves mentally before returning to work.

Take Action by signing the EDM.

You can find more information on how Covid-19 is impacting parents, through 2 papers submitted by Happity as part of the Petitions Committee sessions here and here.

I am having to choose between returning to work and leaving my baby in an unknown setting which will cause them undue stress. Or leaving my job.

Please would you, on my behalf, raise this huge issue to the Government. And urgently. Time is running out and it is causing huge pressures on me, which will be effecting my baby in ways we won’t know for years to come.

Please sign the EDM – https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/56967/campaign-to-extend-maternity-leave-by-three-months – so that this can be discussed seriously in Government as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

{insert name}

Mum of one, co-founder of Happity, mental health advocate

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