Maternity rights are a highly-discussed part of the fight for gender equality – proving as a constant reminder that in the world of work, we’re not on equal footing.
This was proven once more this week, as now pregnant Labour MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy wrote an open letter for The Guardian about her personal struggle.
‘MPs are not entitled to maternity leave,’ Stella wrote in her first person piece. ’The equality battle is far from over,’ going on to explain how no paid cover is available for work outside the House of Commons, and while changes are slowly being made, there is a need to go further.
‘Even when you’ve spent a lifetime fighting for equality, you can still be floored by the way discrimination manifests itself. I never thought parliament would tell me to choose between being an MP and being a mum.’
Stella was at work the day after a miscarriage and her colleague was filing casework just days after a C-section.
‘No community should miss out on representation because its MP is pregnant – nor should my opponents be able to argue there’s a cost to my constituents because I may succeed in my quest to conceive,’ Stella’s piece for The Guardian continued. ‘For all the talk of being family friendly, Westminster is still struggling to offer deeds instead of words. And if we can’t get this right for MPs, how can we get this right for parents elsewhere?
‘Achieving a world in which women are not discriminated against because they can carry children means challenging all of these attitudes – and the policies that go with them. From the parliamentary authorities to our healthcare services and workplaces, it’s time to stop asking nicely for the discrimination to be dealt with. It is time to refuse to wait patiently and instead to make it a a priority.’
Stella concluded: ‘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.’
Thank you Stella for opening the conversation.