Mel Stride MP – Out of Step?

Duration of Parental Leave vs Employment

As the Labour Party convenes its’ Women’s Conference in Manchester, UnionHome reports on the threat to maternity leave. 


Mel Stride MP has called from Conservative Home for a review of maternity leave with “a close look at relaxations in protected-employment legislation for smaller businesses”. He cites a OECD table which he says shows maternity leave breaks the relationship between women and the workplace: “female workplace re-engagement for women with young children is actually stronger where maternity rights are less generous to employees and less onerous on employers”.


This is one giant leap of logic for Stride – the correlation is weak enough without the lack of consideration of important factors about the economy and culture of the individual countries. Perhaps Stride has forgotten that the real problem with workplace re-engagement comes from pregnancy discrimination:  the Equal Opportunities Commission in 2005 found that 30 000 women lost their jobs as a result of unlawful pregnancy discrimination every year. That is almost 8% of all pregnant women at work.


As the campaign Valuing Maternity highlights: Pregnancy discrimination is a problem. Pregnant women and new mothers rarely take action on pregnancy-related problems at work, even when they lose their jobs. Only 3% of women who lose their job as a result of pregnancy discrimination take a case to the employment tribunal. 71% do nothing, not even raising a grievance. The Government doesn’t collect any evidence on pregnancy-related problems at work. They don’t know how widespread the problem is, and they are not trying to find out.


Stride’s article highlights 52 weeks leave, and the requirement to keep a women’s job open. However, he does not include the fact that Statutory Maternity Pay is only 90% of your average earnings for 6 weeks and then a flat rate of £135.45 for 39 weeks. There is no Statutory pay after this period.


That said – Stride’s graph does remind us that we lag some of our international friends.

- Both China and Germany, two of the worlds largest economies, both pay women 100% of their previous earnings, China for 90 days, Germany for 14 weeks.
- Ireland, Belgium and Italy offer women 75-80% of their previous earnings for between 15 and 26 weeks.
- France, Spain and the Netherlands provide 100% of women’s previous incomes for 16 weeks (with ceilings).

Though his is a voice from the right of his party, it’s worth remembering the coalition record in this area – one step forward, two steps back.


In Dec 2010 they joined seven other EU countries in opposing the Pregnant Workers Directive, an extension of paid maternity leave to 20 weeks. In Jan 2011 they announced plans for shared parental leave, which the TUC has major concerns with, and are likely to have been overhauled. However, in March that year it was leaked that the Chancellor planned to lift the “burden” of statutory parental leave laws on companies with 10 or fewer employees as part of his “growth strategy.” In January of this year the Government delayed the extension of unpaid parental leave – The increase from three to four months was set to come in March 2012, but the government announced it would delay until March 2013.


The Conservative Party is torn in two directions on maternity leave, understanding that to weaken it would weaken it’s claim to be pro-family.


Stride’s article ignores the health and welbeing of the newborn. The Marmot review (published 2010), which was set the task of proposing the most effective evidence-based strategies for reducing health inequalities in England recommended “Providing paid parental leave in the first year of life with a minimum income for healthy living.” This was post financial crisis.
The Department of Health recommends 26 weeks exclusive breastfeeding for babies, yet there are few protections for breastfeeding mothers at work, which fall under Health and Safety legal obligations.
Looking at the evidence holistically suggests there’s a need for more help and protection for mothers and babies. By publishing one graph in isolation Mel Stride MP is attempting to keep the issue alive in a way which lacks credibility.

With thanks to the advice of Susheila Juggapah (Sushi) from Maternity Action when compiling this article


Posted in: Blog Posts, Deep Dives, Large Image |

2 Responses to “Mel Stride MP – Out of Step?”

  1. Dan Whittle says:

    Maternity Action is holding a free seminar, with speakers from government, unions and the third sector, to highlight the challenges the government faces as it sets to work replacing the current framework of maternity leave, paternity leave and additional paternity leave with a system of shared parental leave.

    Speakers include:
    Jo Swinson MP, Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs (invited)
    Vicky Carne, MIDIRS
    Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group
    Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister of State for Equalities
    Karen Jennings, UNISON
    Peter Moss, University of London
    Camilla Palmer, Leigh Day Solicitors
    Sarah Veale, TUC
    Cathy Warwick, Royal College of Midwives

    The seminar is taking place on Thursday 25th October, 9.30am – 2.45pm, followed by Maternity Action’s AGM, at the Unison Centre, 130 Euston Road, London NW1 2AY.

    Places are limited and registration is essential, so apply immediately via our form: We will then contact you to confirm your place.

    Visit the Valuing Maternity homepage, led by Maternity Action on the campaign to champion pregnant women and their families.

  2. [...] Employee-owners will have to provide 16 weeks notice to bosses of their intent to return from parental leave after the birth of a child – double the eight weeks required from other [...]

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