Labour MP Stella Creasy is threatening to take legal action against the body that regulates MP’s pay and expenses after being told she cannot hire a ‘locum MP’ to cover her maternity leave.
The MP for Walthamstow became the first MP to get full locum cover while she was caring for her first child. However, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) has told Creasy, who is seven months’ pregnant, that she cannot have maternity cover for her second child.
Ipsa turned down Creasy’s request, stating that the core parts of an MP’s job “cannot – in legal and constitutional terms – be undertaken by someone else”. She has instead been offered £35,000 to cover costs over seven months to pay for staff who would be expected to escalate matters to her.
Creasy said that Ipsa’s decision “would be illegal in any other real workplace setting”.
“Maternity leave and pay are statutory and hard won rights for all women in the UK – but rights mean nothing if they cannot be realised,” she said.
“In the absence of like-for-like maternity cover, any MP faces significant challenges in terms of ensuring that her constituents are, and know that they are, properly represented and championed during her absence.
“This could also discourage voters from supporting candidates who are of childbearing age for fear of suffering the same loss of representation should such a candidate decide to start a family during their term of office.
“Ipsa has a duty to ensure it does not create discriminatory barriers to participation through its policies.’’
Ipsa said in a statement: “Ipsa is committed to supporting a more family-friendly Parliament and enabling MPs to fulfil their parliamentary duties while maintaining their family life.
“Ipsa has 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.
Maternity leave in government
“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.
“Neither we nor Parliament 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.”
Earlier this year the government pushed through a bill entitling ministers to six months’ maternity leave on full pay. This allowed attorney general Suella Braverman to take maternity leave without having to step down from her cabinet post.