British Law Highlights Parental Leave for Lawmakers

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In a bid to make its Parliament more inclusive, Canada overhauled its parental leave policy for lawmakers in 2019. At the time, lawmakers were penalized for long absences not involving illness or official business. They were also not entitled to parental leave because they did not pay into employment insurance and had to rely on their party to work out a leave arrangement on a case-by-case basis.

Now, Canadian lawmakers — regardless of their gender — can take up to a year of paid parental leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.

The United States and Ireland are among the countries without formalized policies of parental leave for elected officials at the national level, leaving lawmakers to make ad hoc arrangements for paid time off within their party.

“It goes back to a historical legacy of institutions not really having to face up to this issue until quite recently and then being reluctant to address it because they consider that the informal approach is more than adequate,” said Professor Childs of Royal Holloway, University of London.

In 2018, when Tammy Duckworth, Democrat of Illinois, became the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office, she told The Guardian that the lack of formalized parental leave made her feel like the Senate “is actually in the 19th century as opposed to the 21st somehow.”

While Ms. Duckworth took 12 weeks’ parental leave (and brought her infant daughter onto the Senate floor), she said it was a “reflection of a real need for more women in leadership across our country.”

In Ireland, the minister for justice, Helen McEntee, is set to become the country’s first senior cabinet minister to give birth while in office.

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