- Watch the moment MP Stella Creasy tells Nina Hossain she will take legal action against IPSA
MP Stella Creasy has revealed she will take legal action if she is forced to choose between ''being an MP and being a mum'' because of old-fashioned parliamentary rules that do not recognise maternity leave.
The Labour politician is expecting her first child after two previous miscarriages which left her ''heartbroken'' - but her joy has been tarnished by the realisation that there is no provision for any paid cover for work carried out on her behalf after she gives birth.
Writing in The Guardian, she said the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which regulates MPs’ pay, does not recognise that MPs go on maternity leave.
Appearing on ITV News this lunchtime, Ms Creasy was asked if she will take legal action against IPSA, if the rules are not changed, to which she replied: ''Absolutely. So many people want to say that women shouldn't be in public life. We need to take this off the table as another stupid excuse to stop that kind of talk.''
Ms Creasy, who represents Walthamstow, in east London, said: ''Humiliatingly, it is making me beg for extra staff funding – or give up any chance of spending time with my child to make sure my constituents don’t miss out.
''I just don't think it's right that any community across this country would be penalised by possibly having a lower standard of service because their MP can't have to juggle all these things than because they've got a woman as their MP. This has to change, it's 2019 not 1919.''
In the newspaper article, Miss Creasy explains ''If a GP or vicar were on leave, a locum would be provided to ensure continuity of community services. In Denmark a member of the national parliament would have a substitute MP appointed.” she said.
“I never thought Parliament would tell me to choose between being an MP and being a mum,” she added.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister Theresa May said IPSA has been urged to look "very closely" at the maternity leave issues raised by Ms Creasy, adding: "No-one should have to choose between being a mum and being an MP.''
Several politicians hailed Ms Creasy's decision to share her story and called for the rules to change and mirror the 21st century.
Ms Creasy is not the first female MP to face discrimination from Parliament after having a child.
Last year deputy Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson attacked Prime Minister Theresa May on Twitter after discovering Brandon Lewis, a Tory MP, undermined her job while she was on maternity leave by voting during two divisions on the Trade Bill when he had agreed not to as she was off looking after her son.
Ms Swinson described Ms Creasy's interview as “fearless and formidable”, adding: “I don’t fancy IPSA’s chances defending their outdated position against your campaigning force. Let’s get this changed!”
Ms Creasy's labour colleague Tulip Siddiq has also suffered at the hands of sexist parliamentary rules - she was was forced to postpone a C-section so she could cast a vote in the debate on Theresa May’s Brexit deal in January.
A year-long trial of proxy voting for those with babies has now been approved as a result of Ms Siddiq's experience after she was wheeled into the chamber to vote.
Ms Siddiq said at the time: “As a politician, I’ve never stopped fighting for women to have control over their own bodies through the provision of reproductive rights and services as the non-negotiable prerequisite of equality.
“As a pregnant woman, this recent experience is another bitter reminder that it’s still often men – this time the Ipsa executives – who will make the choices that determine if that battle will be won.”
Ms Creasy also disclosed in her article how she had continued working “aching and bleeding” during her first miscarriage and led a public meeting the day after her second.
“Now I’m pregnant once more and terrified – not just that it will go wrong again, but because I know that my resolve to keep my private and professional lives separate has become impossible,” she wrote.
“I’m coming forward publicly to talk about it because, as for far too many women, the personal inevitably becomes political when reproduction is involved.”
Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party, said she had “total respect and solidarity” with Ms Creasy over the issue.
“‘Choose or soldier on’ is no way to build equality into democracy,” she tweeted. “And it is just one example of how women in workplaces are short changed in so many ways.”
Former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband also expressed his solidarity, declaring it was “time to get closer to the 21st century”. “We cannot be a modern, effective or representative Parliament when the need for maternity cover is not recognised,” he said. “Nor can we lecture firms on non-discrimination if we practice it ourselves.”
Nottingham South’s Labour MP Lilian Greenwood tweeted: “A very brave piece from my colleague @stellacreasy. There is so much work to do if we are to have a Parliament that reflects the population we serve.”
And Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said: “I couldn’t be prouder of Stella for facing down the use of fertility and motherhood to define and control our politics.”
Harriet Harman has previously called for MPs to get six months’ paid leave, in line with the Civil Service, and be able to nominate a full-time paid “maternity cover” representative for their work outside the Commons.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing said IPSA needed to look ''very closely'' at the maternity issues raised by Ms Creasy: "No-one should have to choose between being a mum and being an MP. "While Parliament has made positive changes to becoming more family friendly in recent years - such as introducing proxy voting and changing sitting hours - Stella Creasy's comments highlight that there is much more to do. "It is ultimately up to the independent Ipsa to make decisions on pay and allowances for MPs but the Prime Minister would urge them to look very closely at the issues that have been raised by Stella Creasy and determine what more support, such as temporary staffing, can be provided."
- Maternity rights: What are women entitled to?
According to the Government's official guide, women can take up to a year of maternity leave if they are classed as an employee. It doesn’t matter how long they have worked for an employer, salary or how many hours a week they work.
Women aren’t entitled to maternity leave if they're classed as a '‘worker’'. This is defined as the following:
Work for an agency - however if there is an agreement saying you’re employed by the agency then this does not apply.
You are a casual worker
You are on a zero-hours contract
Maternity leave cannot last longer than a year.
The shortest maternity leave a woman can take is 2 weeks. This goes up to 4 weeks if a woman works in a factory.
New mums only receive statutory maternity pay (SMP) for 39 weeks of their 52-week maternity leave.
For the first six weeks, you will be paid 90 per cent of your average weekly salary (before tax).
After this point, you will only be paid £139.58 per week, or 90 per cent of your average weekly earnings if this is a lower amount.
If you take an entire year of leave, the last 13 weeks will be unpaid.