Kirsten calls out UK Government for failing to support families

East Renfrewshire MP Kirsten Oswald led a debate in the UK Parliament on the need for the UK Government to take action to improve parental leave and pay and to tackle pregnancy and maternity discrimination.
East Renfrewshire MP Kirsten OswaldEast Renfrewshire MP Kirsten Oswald
East Renfrewshire MP Kirsten Oswald

Ms Oswald, the SNP’s Westminster Group Spokesperson on Women and Equalities, condemned the UK Government’s failure to bring forward the Employment Bill promised by the Prime Minister in 2019 to deliver better conditions for British workers as part of the promised Brexit ‘dividend’, which was to include measures on pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

She pointed to the situation with P&O in which 800 workers were dismissed by a pre-recorded message is a demonstration that UK employment law must be improved.

Although employment law and most of social security are reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Government is committed to delivering Fair Work and to support new parents through this challenging time.

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Ms Oswald highlighted TUC research, which shows that among these leading economies the UK has the second lowest payment rates for maternity leave with less than one-third of gross average earnings replaced during maternity leave, because full-rate equivalent paid maternity leave lasts only 12 weeks.

The SNP is urging the UK Government to tackle this by increasing maternity leave to one year; setting maternity pay at 100 per cent of average weekly earnings for the first 12 weeks, then 90 per cent for 40 weeks or £150.00, whichever is lower; and increasing shared parental leave from 52 to 64 weeks, with at least the additional 12 weeks to be taken by the father.

Ms Oswald also called on the UK Government to fix flaws in Universal Credit that see thousands of families losing any Maternity Allowance they are awarded because of a pound-for-pound reduction in Universal Credit. According to calculations by campaign group Maternity Action, this has led to 85,000 low-income families losing Maternity Allowance worth £500 million from 2016 to 2021.

She said: “It is appalling that a country as rich as the UK provides such poor support for parents and children during pregnancy and in the crucial first months of a new life.

“In 2019, the Prime Minister promised an Employment Bill to ensure the employment rights of British workers did not drop after Brexit. He has failed to deliver on this, and it seems this Bill has now been shelved.

“The disgraceful sacking of 800 P&O workers shows how poor workers’ rights can be in the UK. Pregnant women and new parents regularly face problems in the workplace because any rights they may have are so difficult to enforce.

“The scandal of two-tier support for babies in the UK because of the Universal Credit clawback of Maternity Allowance must not be allowed to continue.”