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Yvette Cooper’s Whitehall battles on maternity leave

16th July 2013

As self-employed office holders, MPs are not entitled to maternity or paternity leave in any employment law contract. It is up to the individual to choose how much time to take off and when to go on leave.

Ms Cooper, who is currently shadow home secretary and has three children, was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She told programme makers that, at times, her maternity leave had become “a bit of a fight” as she battled to stay in touch with departmental issues while away from work.

The MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford first took maternity leave as a serving MP for the birth of her second child. At the time she had been Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and found the department very supportive.

However, when she took a second duration of maternity leave from the communities department, for her third child, she found the experience to be less than satisfactory.

Ms Cooper said, “A lot of it comes down to attitudes of civil servants. Whereas the health department had been really helpful about making sure I had support – making sure I was kept in touch with things that were happening, so that it would be very easy to come back in – in the communities department they almost tried to cut me off completely from everything.”

During the interview, to be broadcast on 16 August, Ms Cooper revealed that Gus O’Donnell, former Cabinet Secretary, has made major reforms to Whitehall policy on maternity and paternity leave since her experiences.

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