MPs should be given “baby leave” allowing them to nominate colleagues to cast votes on their behalf in the House of Commons while they are caring for their child, Harriet Harman has said.
The former Labour deputy leader said MPs should also get six months’ paid leave – similar to the Civil Service – and be able to nominate a full-time paid “maternity cover” representative for their work outside the Commons.
Ms Harman said that 17 babies have been born to women MPs since 2010, but they have not benefited from a system of leave.
She has submitted her proposals to the Speaker’s Commons Reference Group on representation and inclusion, which meets next week.
Speaking before a Labour event in Newcastle, Ms Harman said: “Women have babies – that is a fact of life. Women are in Parliament – that’s a democratic imperative.
“The baby needs time with the mother, the mother needs time with the baby and the constituency needs to be properly represented at all times.
“We need a proper system of baby leave to square that circle. It’s long overdue.”
She added: “The reality is you cannot be on call for your constituency or voting when you are in labour.
“And you should not have to be on duty when your baby is only a few weeks/months old.
“But the constituency must have a representative at all times. There needs to be a proper system of leave and cover.”
Ms Harman said the parliamentary system makes no acknowledgement that male MPs are also fathering babies, saying Parliament “needs to set a proper example on leave”.
“During my 35 years as MP I’ve had three children. Eighteen months’ leave for three babies during 35 years’ work doesn’t seem too much to ask,” she added.