Question to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy:
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, if he will extend paternal leave to support people who have lost access to health services, baby groups and childcare support as a result of the covid-19 outbreak.
The Government is sympathetic to the unique challenges that new parents have faced because of COVID-19 and the social distancing measures that we had to put in place to protect lives and the NHS. We recognise that these restrictions have meant that some parents have been, or still are unable to participate in activities normally available to them, such as baby groups.
The Government is not minded at this stage to extend Paternity Leave and Pay entitlements. We believe current entitlements to Paternity Leave and Pay and Shared Parental Leave and Pay are generous enough to allow fathers to care for the child and support the child’s mother or adopter. Fathers have access to two weeks of Paternity Leave and Pay and through Shared Parental Leave and Pay, they can share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay with the mother if she does not intend to use her full maternity entitlements.
We understand that social distancing guidelines have made finding childcare more challenging. Parents who are unable to find suitable childcare can contact their local authority where they will receive advice on available settings. In addition, parents of children aged under 14 are now able to form ‘childcare bubbles’ to allow friends or family from one other household to provide informal childcare. Early Years settings (including nurseries and childminders) also remain open during the new national lockdown.
The NHS has made arrangements to ensure that new parents were supported throughout the pandemic. Operating digitally where possible, community health services have continued to provide support, prioritising higher needs families, and NHS mental health services also remained open.